Friday, July 30, 2010

Towards a renewable Egypt

(Note on an error in this piece: Europe gets just 20% of its power
from hydro, not 60% as author states; that electricity is
"endangered" because of glaciers melting from climate change (see for

Towards a renewable Egypt
Nader Noureddin* examines Egypt's renewable energy potentials and
Clean and renewable energy technologies are an answer to environmental
pollution, energy security requirements, and negative health impacts
of current energy sources. Clean and renewable energies include
hydropower, wind, solar power and biomass, which include biofuels and
agrofuels. Hydropower is the largest source of renewable electricity
in Europe, supplying 60 per cent of Europe's total renewable energy
compared with only 10 per cent in Egypt. Wind power has been the
fastest growing European and global renewable energy.

One of the major reasons for the growth in wind power use is that it
is currently the lowest cost renewable energy source. Onshore wind
power, at prime locations, can cost as little as 0.065 Euro per
kilowatt-hour (kwh) whilst the lowest offshore costs are 0.09 Euros
per kwh. Biomass simply means biological material. So energy from
biomass means obtaining heat, light or power from biological sources
such as food crops, timber, straw, vegetable oil, animal manure or
energy crops. The use of biomass to produce energy is the oldest
renewable energy; firewood has been used for cooking and heating for
millennia, and its use still supplies much energy around the world.

Biomass can be processed into liquids for use in combustion, and these
liquids are often referred to as biofuel. At the moment, the main
sources of biomass for liquid fuel production are food crops. Oil
crops such as soybean, oilseed rape, oil palm and sunflower are used
to produce bio-diesel, which can be used as a replacement for diesel.
Crops such as sugar cane, sugar beet, maize, wheat and barley are used
to make ethanol, which can be used as a replacement for gasoline.
Ethanol production in 2009 represented about six per cent of the 1300
billion litres of gasoline consumed globally.

Recently the term "agro-fuels" has come into use to describe bio-fuels
produced from large-scale, intensive or industrial production.
Cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from plant residues, is slated
to replace more than five per cent of US gasoline consumption by 2030
according to the US Department of Energy.

Photovoltaic solar and concentrating solar power is the most promising
electricity source by 2050. The electricity supply system of North
Africa and Europe in 2050 will be 100 per cent renewable, following a
continuous and steady transformation of the power system in parallel
with sustained growth demand. The grids of North Africa and Europe are
strongly interconnected. This has been achieved through the
reinforcement of the high voltage alternating current grid, a pan-
European cross Mediterranean overlay of high voltage direct current.

Biofuel sales, global production and wholesale pricing of ethanol and
biodiesel, reached $44.9 billion in 2009 and are projected to grow to
$112.5 billion by 2019. In 2009, the bio-fuels market consisted of
more than 23.6 billion gallons of ethanol and bio-diesel production
worldwide ( Clean Energy Trends 2010 ).

Wind power's new installation capital costs are projected to expand
from $63.5 billion in 2009 to $114.5 billion in 2019. Last year,
global wind power installations reached a record 37,500 Mega Watt (MW).

China, the global leader in new wind installations, accounted for more
than a third of new installations, or 13,000 MW. Solar power will grow
from a $30.7 billion industry in 2009 to $98.9 billion by 2019. The
total of clean energy (bio-fuel, wind and solar) reached $124.8
billion in 2008, grew 11 per cent to $139.1 billion in 2009, and is
projected to grow to $325.9 billion in 2019.

Egypt could produce electricity from solar power collected from the
western and eastern deserts, which is considered one of the five
highest solar areas in the world, and at the same time desalinise
Mediterranean and Red Sea water to get an appreciable amount of fresh
water for sustainable development.

Renewable energy is the only choice for the future of energy in Egypt
and the world.

* The writer is professor of soil and water sciences at the Faculty of
Agriculture, Cairo University.

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