Why Isn’t Solar Energy being used in Egypt?

In July I took the family on a last minute trip to Egypt, booked on Monday, travelled on Wednesday!  Okay, flying is not the most environmentally friendly thing to do, but I’m not going to keep the kids at home for the sake of my personal views. Anyway, the seats would otherwise be empty – enough of that!

We stayed at one of the many fairly standard European hotels, in our case the Steigenberger Nile Palace.

July is hot! Very hot and with clear blue skies. Loads of solar energy covering the place! We cover up and work hard to keep the kids either covered or heavily sun creamed, hats are a must as are long sleeved shirts.

My point? There was all this very high quality and quantity solar energy but not a solar collector in sight! I even went on the hotel roof looking for them, then asked one of the senior hotel manager’s, a very informed Egyptian who agreed that there was no use of solar energy in the hotel and little use in Egypt, certainly none of the other hotels in Luxor used solar power.

Apparently this aversion to solar energy dates back 30 years to a project initiated by President Sadat to build a new village in the desert, the houses all having solar water heating. So, a failed state project 30 years ago and there is still no solar energy in Egypt!

Another problem associated with installing solar power, either for direct water heating or PV panels for electricity is the subsidy on petrol and other energy. Yes, the Egyptians will complain about the high price of energy, yet its still cheap and for the average egyptian, investing in solar panels such as we use in the west – to get every last therm from the sun, is just too expensive!

Solar Energy and the International Hotels

For the hotels, and taking the Steigenberger as an example, none of this should apply!

The Steigenbereger, as a German hotel chain (but so should all the international hotels) should have their roofs covered in solar water heating panels. Its not like a hotel doesn’t need hot water!

  • Cooking
  • Dishwashing
  • Washing bedsheets
  • Hot water supplies in Guest’s rooms

With the consistent sun in Luxor (and Aswan) solar panels might well be capable of generating all hot water requirements, certainly during the summer and possibly well into the main winter tourist season. The energy savings would be huge, each panel potentially producing twice or three times the volume of hot water as the equivalent in the UK – to an extent making the investment 3 times as effective! Even considering the subsidised energy in Egypt, a solar water heating installation would soon pay for itself, anyway, the international hotels shouldn’t be taking advantage of advantageous energy prices, any subsidy being aimed at the lower paid Egyptians, not the Western Tourist!

See: Google maps of Luxor – International Hotels, play spot the solar panel! (actually there aren’t any)

Low cost appropriate Technology

As for the average Egyptian, I was talking to an Egyptian who I would say was middle income, his view of solar heating was the high cost panels used in Europe and had missed the point that the only reason we used these was because we had so little sunlight. I suggested that all he needed was a long black hose connecte dto his water system, laid zig zag on his roof leading to a third tap in the kitchen or the bath. Even if it was only sufficient for perhaps a single bath in the late afternoon or enough for washing dishes during the day, it would soon pay for the pipe and then be free hot water!

There was little need for a technical solution

And the Embassies in Egypt

Images above show Google maps image of the accomodation in Islamabad and the main embassy in Cairo – no solar panels!

The same criticism of the major international hotels applies to the British Embassy in Cairo, not a single solar collector on the roof of the Embassy building!

I’ve also looked at the roofs of the accomodation and British High Commission buildings in Islamabad, again no sign of any solar water heating yet these are ideal locations for solar energy! But again, there is relatively low cost energy which acts as a distraction. Even so the FCO (Foreign Office) should be doing better!

What do they say on their website? Try a search for fco solar energy and you get this page: https://ukinegypt-stage.fco.gov.uk/en/about-uk/environment/renewable-energy which says nothing about what the FCO is doing, it is just a load of dogma! (bullshit is a better term).

For both the International Hotels and other corporations and the Embassies, there is an opportunity to show that the UK (and the west) is taking climate change and sustainable energy seriously by using the alternative energy sources that they promote in countries far more suited to these technologies than the cold and cloudy United Kingdom!

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11 Responses

  1. There’s a big need for low cost, effective designs. I’m sure if they work well and are affordable, they’ll take off. We have some designs detailed on Appropedia, which were built in Mexico. But we need much more! Black pipe along will work, but if we think about best practice, what’s the most hot water,, and the neatest, most reliable product that someone can get for the money they spend?

    A few thoughts about attitudes: Yes, fossil fuel subsidies make it a bigger challenge – changing someone’s thinking to save a very small amount of money is hard. But if we think of other angles to complement the economic incentive… get the kids involved (get the ideas taught in the schools), emphasize the green side of things, and make the designs freely available in people’s own language. Those are not enough on their own, but add “and you save money” – and maybe it will all add up.

  2. […] thoughts triggered by:Why Isn’t Solar Energy being used in Egypt! by solarkent Tags: international development, solar hot […]

  3. For a real example of how easy low tech solar water heating is, see:

    This would be ideal for any hot / sunny country!

    Even better, the result allows the ‘hostess’ to take a hot shower

  4. Intresting article. I’d be thankful if you can guide me to a reasonably priced Solar solution to provide electricity to a humble Garage/workshop that I own. BIg brother here cuts electricity every day from 2-3 hours during peak hours (to save electricity??). I’ve spent 2 years chasing paper work and licenses to be able to have such a workshop. It’s located in the official industrial/workshop zone of Cairo. And this is what they’re doing daily to hundreds of business owners. (If you’re updating software on a 1999-2010 BMW and the electricity cuts, you’ll damage some very expensive control units in the car). As for the water supply here, I barely see it 3-4 days a month but it isn’t damaging my biz as the electricity issue.
    While I honestly know I’ve chosen a bad part on planet earth to run a decent business or to even have ambition, it happens to be my homeland and I just happen to lack a Visa that would allow me to earn a living elsewhere 🙂
    Thank You.

    • With regard to Solar Panels, you might find the best prices and availability are available within Egypt, however a UK company that has a great expertise in export is True Energy http://www.trueenergy.co.uk and they provide packaged systems suitable for what you require.

      However where I would look would be the computer sector and UPS’s Un-interruptible Power Supplies which would surely satisfy the technical problems you identified. Perhaps add a small generator. I know this is not the ‘clean’ solution but perhaps more practical.

    • Mohamed… how much is your monthly consumption in this workshop?

      • i was trying to find a solar source to run a water pump (see my question above) I came up with a prohibitive price offer as comared to the the conventional electrical bill. in addition i aquired a Disel engine for a back up. hopefully as the country stabelizes solar will become affordable as it should be in a sunny land.

      • About 500-700 Kw/hr

  5. […] The busiest day of the year was January 7th with 26 views. The most popular post that day was Why Isn’t Solar Energy being used in Egypt?. […]

  6. I have a question rather than a reply
    is there any reliable photo voltaic that could run a 40 h/p electrical water pump for 8 hrs per day?

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