Egypt's rising level of energy consumption is a major factor behind the country's air pollution problems. Over the last 20 years, Egyptian energy consumption has risen 171 percent , from 0.7 quadrillion Btu in 1980 to 1.9 quads in 1998. Despite this upward trend, Egypt still only accounts for 0.5 percent of total world energy consumption, and Egypt's increasing energy consumption is still below that of other countries in the region.
Although Egypt's per capita energy consumption is on the rise, it is still well below the level of the United States and many European countries. Egypt's per capita energy consumption of 29.4 million Btu is significantly lower than U.S. per capita consumption of 350.7 million Btu.
In 1997, industry accounted for 53.6 percent of all energy consumed in Egypt, with transportation (24.7 percent) and residential (22.1 percent) making up the remainder. Of the energy consumed, oil was the leading energy source (63.3 percent), while natural gas accounted for 27.6 percent and coal for 2.2 percent.
Oil's share of Egypt's energy consumption is likely to decrease in coming years. As Egypt's oil reserves decrease, the country is looking to reduce its consumption of oil. In addition to stemming the domestic consumption of oil (and freeing up oil to be exported for hard currency), the conversion of all oil-fired, power-generating plants in Egypt to natural gas will contribute to protecting the environment through cleaner air.
Also, in September 1999 the European Investment Bank announced that it is advancing approximately $125 million to Egypt for gas and oil industry projects. Of this, a $100-million loan to Misr Oil Processing Company will help contribute to a more efficient use of energy consumption in Egypt, as well as improving environmental quality.
Carbon and Energy-Related Emissions:
As a low-lying delta state, Egypt is potentially at great risk from climate change that raises sea levels. On the other hand, since Egypt has very limited natural fresh water resources aside from the Nile (the country's only perennial water source), it is prone to drought, and climate change that bring fluctuations in sea levels and rainfall patterns (as some scientists predict) could exacerbate the situation.
These threats to Egypt's environment have made the country highly cognizant of the detrimental effect that emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases have on the Earth's atmosphere.
Egypt's carbon emissions have risen from 11.7 million metric tons in 1980 to 31.6 million tons in 1998. Although this 170 percent increase is large, the rate of increase now has slowed substantially. Since 1990, the baseline year of the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Egypt's carbon emissions have increased by 21 percent.
As a non-Annex I country under the Convention, Egypt is not required to cut its carbon emissions. Although Egypt has not yet ratified the Protocol, it is a signatory, and Egypt stands to benefit from the Protocol's implementation.
Egypt's carbon emissions per capita are significantly lower than most developed countries. At a rate of 0.5 metric tons of carbon emitted per person in 1998, Egypt's emissions were substantially below the U.S. value of 5.5 metric tons of carbon per capita. While oil (72 percent ) and coal (3 percent) make up three-quarters of the country's carbon emissions by fuel source.
Egypt's growing market for natural gas, which makes up the other quarter, should help reduce the increase in carbon emissions. In September 1999 the European Investment Bank advanced $25 million to the Egyptian National Gas Company for construction of a commercial gas pipeline from Suez to north of Cairo.
The project will offer major environmental benefits by promoting the substitution of oil products with natural gas, substantially reducing emissions of carbon and related pollutants.
Energy and Carbon Intensity:
Egypt's energy-intensive oil extraction has resulted in a high level of energy intensity compared to Western Europe, yet squarely in the middle of the oil-producing Middle East region.
Egypt's 1998 energy intensity was 31,000 Btu/$1990, which is significantly higher than countries such as Germany (7,300 Btu/$1990) and France (7,400 Btu/$1990), but right on par for the region: Egypt's energy intensity level is slightly higher than Iran's (26,900 Btu/$990) and Libya's (22,600 Btu/$1990), but below Saudi Arabia's (35,100 Btu/$1990). In comparison, U.S. energy intensity in 1998 was 13,400 Btu/$1990.
Egypt's energy intensity should fall as the country implements more energy efficiency and conservation programs. Since 1998, the U.S. Agency for International Development's "Energy Conservation and Environment Program," (ECEP) has provided technical assistance and $19 million plus worth of equipment to over 150 industrial and commercial facilities toward improving energy efficiency in Egypt.
The project has overseen the completion of over 30 demonstrations of different energy efficient technologies in industries, resulting in annual energy cost reductions for participating companies of around $14 million.
ECEP, which now is in its final phase focusing on sustainability, also estimates that it avoided emissions of thousands of tons of greenhouse gases, including 6,000 tons of carbon monoxide (a 48 percent reduction), 3,000 tons of nitrogen (a 22 percent reduction), 17,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (a 28 percent reduction), and 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (a 7 percent reduction).
The reduction in carbon emissions growth, combined with a shift of Egypt's energy mix to more natural gas, should help reduce the country's carbon intensity in coming years. In 1998, Egypt's carbon intensity level was 0.53 metric tons of carbon/thousand $1990.
Although this level compares favorably with other countries in the region--Saudi Arabia's carbon intensity was also 0.53, while Iran's was 0.47, and Libya's was 0.44--it is still several times higher than European averages: France's 1998 energy intensity was 0.08, while Germany's was 0.12. As Egypt begins to use more natural gas and hydropower, its carbon intensity should fall, perhaps coming closer to the level of the United States (0.21 metric tons of carbon/thousand $1990) or Turkey (0.23).
Hydroelectric Power and the Nile River
Hydroelectric power is an important source of energy in Egypt--during the 1980s, the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River provided half of Egypt's electricity. This percentage has fallen while energy demand has increased, but in 1998 hydropower still contributed 22 percent of the total energy generated in the country.
Fully 86 percent of the water that Egypt consumes annually originates from the Blue Nile River, which flows from Lake Tana in Ethiopia, while the remainder comes from the White Nile, which flows from Lake Victoria in Uganda.
The rivers join in Khartoum, Sudan, and then flow on to Egypt. Water rights to the Nile have become an important issue between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and although each recognizes the river's international characteristics, there is no agreed-upon regime governing the actions of the three states, and no integrated plan for optimum use and development of the waters that could benefit all concerned.
Hence, despite Ethiopia's protests, Egypt went ahead with construction of the Aswan High Dam from 1964-1971. Although the dam irrigated a substantial amount of land, provided electricity and water, and created Lake Nasser, environmental critics point out that it also blocked the normal flow of the Nile, prevented the nourishment of agricultural lands farther down the river, and destroyed the river's fishing industry.
In addition, vegetation in Lake Nasser has grown rapidly, resulting in clogged irrigation channels, and creating stagnant water that has become a breeding ground for disease-bearing insects. Also, hydrologists have estimated that each year the reservoir loses a staggering 15 cubic kilometers (9.3 cubic miles) of water to evaporation.
While Egypt still uses far more of the river's annual flow of around 50 cubic miles than any of the other eight nations (which include Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya in addition to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt) along its banks, Egypt is concerned about what will happen when other countries like Ethiopia begin to utilize their waters for hydroelectric power.
The Blue Nile terrain favors the construction of dams to generate power, Ethiopia has explored the possibility of building a dam on Lake Tana for a long time. Between 1956-1964, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation surveyed the Nile Basin, proposing four major dams on the Blue Nile with a combined storage of 51 cubic kilometers (31.7 cubic miles) and a hydroelectric capacity three times that of Aswan High Dam.
Recent findings reveal that the Blue Nile has a power potential of 172 billion kilowatts, twice the combined national hydroelectric output of both Sudan and Egypt. Experts say that the amount of water available to downstream states would not be substantially affected, even if Ethiopia were to implement the Blue Nile Plan drawing off 3.7 cubic miles of water.
In fact, water experts feel that Egypt and Sudan would still benefit from the construction of the reservoirs within Ethiopia, which would allow Ethiopia to generate enough electricity not only to satisfy most of its own needs but also to export to Sudan and Egypt, as well as the Arabian peninsula.
However, Egypt has questioned the effects--both environmental and otherwise--of this potential hydropower development. Some years ago the lowering of the water level at the Aswan High Dam drastically affected agricultural and industrial output in Egypt, and a potential future decrease of water levels at the dam would also reduce Egypt's hydroelectric power supply.
In the absence of agreements on water rights, if irrigation dams were to be built in either Ethiopia or East Africa (or if climatical change were to result in increased warming or in droughts and increased evaporation), Egypt believes that the annual flood of the Blue Nile, upon which Egypt is dependent, would be virtually eliminated. Indeed, a permanent reduction in the quantity of Blue Nile water into Egypt would have widespread effects.
Other Renewable Energy Sources:
Aside from hydroelectricity, Egypt is boosting its use of renewable energies such as solar and wind power. In February 2000, Boeing was awarded a contract from the U.S. Department of Energy to analyze the feasibility and development of a natural gas/solar power plant in Egypt.
The project, which is known as Noor Al Salam, or Light of Peace, is an outgrowth of the U.S./Israel Science and Technology Commission geared to develop a system design for a solar-based power plant capable of providing a renewable source of energy to Egypt, Israel, and neighboring countries.
Once the study is completed, it is expected that the trilateral partnership will work together to implement the system design and construct the plant at a location in the Egyptian desert near the Red Sea. The World Environment Agency has allocated $65 million to Egypt towards the plant, which will operate on solar power during the day and natural gas at night.
In another recent development, Japan announced that it will provide Egypt with technological assistance while deciding on loans for a wind-power project in Egypt. Overall, renewable energy consumption in Egypt is on the increase, having jumped 10 percent to 176 trillion Btu in 1997.
Source: United States Energy Information Administration.
Note: The information is from May 2000.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )