Egypt’s solar and wind energy at heart of German visit

"Priority areas for our bilateral cooperation are promoting renewable energy resources, water supply and sanitation and vocational education and training," Niebel said in Cairo.

Niebel, who is to stay in Egypt until Friday, has toured several cities across the country, visiting energy and water-related projects. He noted that economic cooperation between the two countries was aimed at removing obstacles to development through providing alternative resources for energy.

Niebel visited the High Dam in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan, where KfW, Germany’s development bank, financed a project to renew hydroelectric power generators. The project, which started in 2005, is expected to be finished by October.

He will also visit the Zaafarana wind farm venture at the Red Sea coast, where electricity is to be generated from wind energy. Egypt hopes the wind turbines will help it increase its dependence on renewable energy to 20 per cent.

On Wednesday, Niebel also witnessed the signing of two agreements worth 102.8 million euros (around 129 million dollars). The first is a 79-million-euro agreement for technical cooperation in developing the irrigation sector and a programme for primary education.

The second agreement aims at promoting environmental and climate protection, private sector development and reform, management of water and women’s rights.

According to the Cairo-based German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Germany is the third largest bilateral donor to Egypt. During the 1980s and 1990s, the focus was on infrastructure, but more recently attention has been diverted to projects that contribute to achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which call for eradicating poverty, improving education and promoting gender equality.

"These projects relate to the present and the future," Niebel said. Water was crucial for agricultural development while training helps to create jobs and fight poverty, he noted.

Egypt, along with other Middle Eastern countries, relies heavily on traditional energy sources such as oil and gas. But the region could become a leader in solar power generation within five years.

By late 2012, the outline of the 400-billion Desertec initiative should be set out, with location of facilities, financing and shareholders, according to Paul van Son, the chief operating officer of the Berlin-based foundation, Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), as he accompanied the minister during the visit.

The project hopes to develop "a reliable, sustainable and climate-friendly energy supply" that satisfies a substantial part of energy needs of the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

Germany is one of the leading countries in manufacturing solar collecting systems and domestically installing them, despite its constant cloudy weather.

"We have the capacity and qualified people but we have no sun, while Egypt has the sun but not the know-how, and this is enough reason for the two countries to cooperate in Concentrating Solar Power," Niebel said.

Although the project is expected to also meet as much as 15 per cent of Europe’s electricity demand by 2050, Neibel said that their concern is to produce energy, not just import it.

Source: DPA