Gov’t to use coal as energy source despite environmental concerns
coal - AFP

CAIRO: Coal will be used as part of the energy system in Egypt, according to a decision issued by the Cabinet in a Wednesday meeting.

The Cabinet approved of the use of coal that abides by environmental standards, and decided to increase penalties for those who violate regulations.

Allowing coal to be used by factories as an energy source instead of natural gas is a controversial issue that has been debated between the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Electricity and Energy for the past few months, amid an increasing energy crisis and frequent blackouts.

The Ministry of Environment views the use of coal in factories as dangerous to the environment, and has said such a project would need years to be implemented safely in Egypt. But the Suez Cement Company and the Ministry of Electricity argued coal is the best alternative energy source at the moment.

Minister of Environment Laila Iskander said in March that using coal in factories is dangerous to the economy, tourism, and people’s health, MENA reported.

Iskandar told Youm7 that cement plants, which are operating using natural gas, already do not abide by existing environmental regulations, and by changing the current energy mix, new criteria should be applied to focus on renewable energy.

Iskander took legislative procedures in February against Titan Cement Egypt and the Arabian Cement Company in the Suez for illegal drilling procedures to grind coal in windmills.

Head of the Suez Cement Company Omar Mehanna told Youm7 that the use of coal as an alternative energy source is a solution to the energy crisis in Egypt, and past dangers associated with coal no longer exist due to major developments in the industry.

“There is not better, faster, cheaper alternative energy source, and easy-to-control side effects other than coal,” Professor of Petroleum and Mining at Al-Azhar University Mohamed Reda told The Cairo Post Wednesday.

Reda said the Cabinet’s decision to use coal is the best solution for the current crisis. He said all European countries are using coal as an energy source and are following precautions to protect and secure the environment.

Expressing major concern over the use of coal for energy, Iskander previously explored various alternative sources, in particular renewable energy such as solar and nuclear energy projects.

“Solar, nuclear energy, wind, and rainfall are renewable sources but are difficult to rely on since it is not available all the time,” Reda said, adding that coal is the best solution for Egypt’s energy crisis. Other alternatives like fuel oil or solar and natural gas are expensive, he said, and building power plants with coal to generate electricity is much cheaper than natural gas.

The decline of energy production has led to frequent power outages in several governorates that can last for hours. In response, some residents have threatened not to pay their monthly electricity bills.

To increase energy production, the Ministry of Electricity announced in a Monday statement that it signed a loan agreement worth $190 million with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD.) It would finance the Shabab and the West Damietta power plants to increase the production to 2,250 megawatts.

The lack of fuel is the main reason behind the power outages, head of the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency Hafez Salmawy told The Cairo Post in March.

This summer will witness “one of the worst fuel and energy shortages” in Egypt given the decline of energy production as consumption rates increase dramatically, a government source told Youm7 in February.

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