Friday, July 30, 2010

Towards a renewable Egypt

Nader Noureddin [professor of soil and water sciences at the Faculty of Agriculture, Cairo University] examines Egypt's renewable energy potentials and options

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.