Billions needed to upgrade Egypt's power grid as summer crunch looms

Wed Apr 23, 2014 3:33am EDT
 
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By Maggie Fick

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt needs to find at least $5 billion to invest in its dilapidated power grid, a government official told Reuters, highlighting a major challenge for the next president as the country faces the risk of worsening blackouts this summer.

Energy is a politically explosive issue in Egypt, where power cuts have become commonplace even in the capital Cairo. Blackouts deepened discontent with Islamist President Mohamed Mursi before his ouster last July.

While gas shortages have been blamed for the crisis, senior electricity ministry official Sabah Mohamed Mashaly said modernizing the grid should be a priority.

"We don't have any (capacity) reserves, we just cover the load demand," Mashaly said in an interview.

She said additional power capacity was needed to fill sudden production falls caused by accidents and maintenance work at Egypt's 51, mainly gas-fired, power stations, of which about a quarter are more than 20 years old.

Mashaly said renovating these and building new ones would carry a price tag for cash-strapped Egypt of "no less than $4 or $5 billion" plus several billion more to boost the generation capacity of the system.

HEADACHE FOR SISI

Egyptians vote in presidential elections next month in which former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to easily defeat his only challenger, leftist Hamdeen Sabahi. Though Sisi's supporters credit him with a magic touch, there is no instant solution to the decrepit state of the power grid, a glaring example of decades of mismanagement.   Continued...

 
A supermarket seller stands near an emergency light during power outage at his shop in Cairo April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh