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Solar Water Heating: Egypt Tries to Copy Tunisia’s Success

With growing pressure to find clean energy sources because of climate change and cost, the Egyptian government is trying to replicate Tunisia’s use of solar water heating.

Tunisia has hundreds of thousands of solar water heaters, and one million square meters of concentrated solar collectors, in the residential sector. Under a renewable energy law passed in 2015, the Tunisian government has committed to producing 30 percent   of its energy from clean sources by 2030.

To discuss how the two countries can cooperate on clean energy goals, the director of the Tunisian National Agency for Energy Management, Fethi Hanchi, will visit Cairo at the end of this month, following a similar visit by an Egyptian government delegation to Tunisia in June.

During their visit, the Egyptian experts discussed with their Tunisian counterparts solar heating projects in industrial processes. Egypt’s National Cleaner Production Centre and the Industrial Modernisation Centre at the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry are working on a similar project with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). The Global Environment Facility is funding the project.

Reducing Consumption of Fossil Fuels

Hanchi told Al-Fanar Media that the success of the Tunisian solar energy experience resulted from years of efforts to reduce consumption and focus on renewable, or clean, energy sources. He hoped that his coming visit to Cairo would end with the signing of memoranda of understanding for cooperation in solar energy.

Hanchi said that after the Tunisian Parliament passed the 2015 law his country had gradually sought to reduce its dependence on energy production from fossil fuels, primarily natural gas, and increase its production of electricity through solar and wind energy.

“We are trying to expand the use of solar water heaters in the domestic and commercial sectors. … We call on the Egyptian government to put mechanisms in place to carry out this experiment … as part of Egypt’s support for sustainable development and the 2030 plan.”

Gihan Bayoumi, Programme Officer for Egypt with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)

The move was prompted by cost and environmental concerns. Burning fossil fuels for energy consumption is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

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In June, Tunisia launched the first floating power plant to produce electricity from solar energy in the Middle East and North Africa, at a cost of 500,000 euros. It has a peak capacity of about 200 kilowatts and is expected to provide 265 megawatt hours of electricity per year, enough to power 130 homes.

Applying the Tunisian Model in Egypt

Gihan Bayoumi, UNIDO’s programme officer in Cairo, said the organisation arranged the Egyptian officials’ visit to Tunisia so they could benefit from the Tunisians’ pioneering experience in promoting the use of solar water heaters in homes, and to identify methods of providing incentives to users.

She told Al-Fanar Media the Egyptian government needed to incentivise the public to a switch to solar water heating in the domestic and commercial sectors, to reduce the consumption of electricity produced from fossil fuels.

This might require the government to help pay for solar water heating systems installed in homes, Bayoumi said. She pointed to Tunisia’s model, which provided financing that made it easier for homeowners to install solar heaters.

“We are trying to expand the use of solar water heaters in the domestic and commercial sectors, in addition to the industrial sector,” Bayoumi said.

“We call on the Egyptian government to put mechanisms in place to carry out this experiment, which we hope to announce soon, as part of Egypt’s support for sustainable development and the 2030 plan,” she said. The 2030 plan refers to the United Nations’ climate change panel’s call for halving greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade.

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The organisation is focusing first on the domestic and commercial sectors, before turning to the more complex industrial sector. Bayoumi said feasibility studies had determined that using solar technology in industry “would not achieve the required economic savings because of the low gas prices offered to factories in Egypt, compared to other countries.”

The Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry is working on a plan to support the local manufacture of solar water heating systems. The project could result in expanding the use of solar thermal energy for industry, the head of the ministry’s Industrial Modernisation Centre said.

Organisers therefore were thinking more of the tourism sector, where the economic feasibility is better because some hotels use diesel fuel instead of gas for heating.

The project “also needs banks to provide soft loans to facilitate the installation of solar heaters, stimulate the use of new and renewable energies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and combat climate change,” Bayoumi said.

Diversification of Energy Sources in Egypt

Mohamed Abdel Karim, executive director of the Industrial Modernisation Centre at the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry, said the ministry was working on a plan to support the local manufacture of solar water heating systems with UNIDO’s support. The project could result in expanding the use of solar thermal energy for industry.

He told Al-Fanar Media that using solar heating in industry  would increase Egypt’s local manufacturing of new and renewable energy technology and reduce the industrial use of traditional energy.

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Meanwhile, Egypt is making progress on goals to shift away from fossil fuels. According to government data, Egypt’s production of energy from renewable sources came to about 24,000 gigawatt hours last year. That amounted to 20 percent of total power generation, a goal the New and Renewable Energy Authority had hoped to achieve only by the end of this year.

Nearly 14,000 gigawatt hours of the clean energy total, or more than half, came from hydroelectric power, the authority’s statistics show. Wind power contributed 5,700 gigawatt hours, while solar power contributed 4,400 gigawatt hours. Biofuel projects generated 88 gigawatt hours.

Related Reading

Also see Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on this topic.

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