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Egypt creates plan to reduce electricity consumption

The government's plan to reduce wasted electricity is meant to boost natural gas exports to Europe but is receiving some pushback from domestic users.
Egypt power

CAIRO — The Egyptian government recently announced a plan to reduce electricity consumption throughout the country, including in state departments and ministries.

The plan aims to free up gas for export that is currently pumped into power stations in order to generate profit in hard currency, according to a government statement.

On its official website, the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy launched a campaign to raise awareness and to urge citizens to reduce power consumption at home.

On Aug. 13, Egyptian governorates began implementing the rationalization plan. Malls and stores across the country came under scrutiny to ensure compliance with closing times.

The Giza governorate announced that it was cutting streetlight power by 50%, by lighting only every other streetlight. The governorate will also switch off lights in governorate buildings, shops and pharmacies.

Ayman Hamza, spokesman for the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy, told Al-Monitor that all state agencies and public bodies have been ordered to reduce electricity consumption in all their buildings during working hours. No use of electricity is allowed after working hours, he added.

“The decision also includes reducing lighting in streets and public squares across the homeland, and reducing the use of power in LED billboards in the streets, squares and highways. The decision also applies to all places of worship, including mosques and churches,” Hamza said. “Also ... there will be government campaigns to closely follow up on the implementation process.” 

Hamza explained that stores are requested to dim the shop window lights, and commercial malls must set their air conditioning system at only 25 degrees Celsius to save energy.

Sports clubs and football stadiums must also completely shut off power after working hours, and reduce lighting and electricity consumption during working hours. Sport events ought to be organized during the day and not in the evening, according to Hamza.

The main goal, he said, is to export more natural gas to Europe, which would generate profits amid the high global gas prices in the wake of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the reduced Russian gas supplies to European countries.

Also, Hamza said, the government is already beginning to operate power stations on diesel instead of natural gas, a measure that allowed the state to save up to $150 million per month from late 2021.

The government hopes to make an additional $300 million to $400 million per month in gas sales, should domestic consumption go down by 10% to 15%, he added.

Abdel-Khaleq Farouq, director of the Nile Center for Economic and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Reducing consumption by 15% remains very ambitious. This measure would strain citizens and cause prices to increase. Asking Egyptians to cut back on consumption means having them bear the consequences of the government’s failure to manage economic issues.” 

He pointed out that “In July, the foreign reserves decreased to $33 billion. The government is now seeking to compensate for this shortage by all possible means, even at the expense of citizens.” Reducing lighting in the streets could raise crime rates, he said, and diminish the aesthetic appeal of cities. “How is it even fathomable to plunge Cairo and its magnificent squares in total darkness at night to save power?” he lamented.

For Farouq, however, the silver lining is reducing consumption in state agencies, which often run their lighting and air conditioning even after official working hours.

Mohamed Hamdy, a business owner in downtown Cairo, told Al-Monitor that the government's new decision has already affected his work, as he is forced to close his shop early and to dim the shop window lights, which means less customers.

“The market movement has been stagnant recently due to the devaluation of the national currency and the economic crisis, but this decision could make economic stagnation worse,” he added.

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