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Egypt’s Rooftop Solar Energy Plans – Hot or Not?

solar power in egypt wikicommons

Participating in an initiative to finance rooftop solar power units, National Bank of Egypt (NBE) and Banque Misr are offering loans to citizens in Egypt. As a preliminary stage, the initiative is being offered only within specific areas of Cairo. However, plans include expanding soon into Egypt’s other governorates.

Energy Committee Head Magid Eldeen Almanzlaoy reports the completion of the Egyptian Businessmen’s Association (EBA) study for establishing rooftop solar energy generation in Egypt.

An Egyptian’s Take on This News Release

As an Egyptian citizen and resident, I feel compelled to share my opinionated amusement regarding this news release. Let’s take this one step at a time.

First, citizens of Egypt are being offered loans for solar power systems on their rooftops. Almanzlaoy said that loans are being offered in accordance with a tripartite contract between banks, state-owned electricity companies and the EBA. I’m immediately suspicious of EBA conflict of interest, but let’s give Almanzlaoy and his EBA the benefit of the doubt for right now, and keep going.

Paying Interest is Forbidden for Muslims

Second, Almanzlaoy said that interest rates on the loans will range from 4% to 8%, as the value of the loan depends on the energy required per kilowatt per hour (KWH). In my experience, it will probably depend more on political party affiliation, but even this is not significant. What is significant is that this is a majority Muslim country. Paying interest on loans is forbidden in Islam. Perhaps that majority is not so devout since the latest uncoup in Egypt (and the subsequent unmassacre of political opposition unterrorists), but let’s give the Muslim majority the benefit of the doubt for right now, too.

Religious devotion, and equally significantly, lack of it, is not a positive motivation for paying interest on a loan in a country where the majority of citizens has never paid interest on a loan before this. Solar power up on my roof sounds great, but paying someone “interest” to get it put up there is just another word for paying “rashwah.”

In Egypt, Loans + Interest = #FAIL

“Rashwah” is the arabic word for Egypt’s corrupt system of paying for favors, or even common, everyday services like getting the light bulb changed on the state-owned electric pole on our street corner – keep in mind that we will supply the lightbulb, electricians tape, and even the ladder, and pay the guy who climbs the pole, too! If he is also getting a salary, so much the better for him, but we won’t get the bulb changed by it.

“Interest” is just another form of rashwah in just about any intelligent Egyptian’s opinion. In Egypt, loans + interest = #FAIL. But let’s give interest-charging loans the benefit of the doubt for the moment, and keep going.

Third, Almanzlaoy revealed that in the case of the initiative’s success, citizens who have finished paying loan premiums can invest by selling the electricity produced from their solar units. I don’t know how to say “caveat” in arabic, but I think we just read the fine print in the initiative. But let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the initiative’s success, and take a closer look at the initiative.

image (Image note and source: Yes, that’s our electric company serviceman changing the light bulb on our street corner. I took this picture last summer.)

Egypt’s Dependable Electricity Companies

Fourth, Almanzlaoy added that the initiative seeks to coordinate with state-owned electricity companies because the presence of electricity companies in this tripartite contract will lead to the success of the initiative. “After seven years it is expected that a citizen who owns a solar unit will get electricity without paying any bills. Moreover, the citizen will sell electricity to the government and benefit from the subsidised price of electricity at the same time,” explained Almanzlaoy.

Yes, I think it’s a good idea to have someone to sell the excess electricity produced from my solar unit… Provided I get my loan paid off… Provided I agree to pay interest… that a fat portion of which is probably lining the pockets of Almanzlaoy and his EBA, just for dreaming up this sweet scheme…

But let’s give state-owned electric companies the benefit of the doubt, and imagine they will be better at buying back solar-generated electricity than they are at buying lightbulbs, electricians tape, and ladders for the electric pole on our street corner, and keep going. (Please don’t even ask me to address electricity for free while still benefitting from the subsidized price of electricity. O.M.G. I am blindsided by such brilliance.)

A 20-Year Guarantee, Insha’ Allah

Fifth, Almanzlaoy explained that the solar unit, which will be established for the production of electricity, will have a guarantee of up to 20 years, during which the supplier will provide maintenance operations. Right. It takes an act of God approaching miracle proportions just to get that blasted lightbulb changed, and we foot the bill for time and materials!

The benefit of the doubt rightfully belongs to God, so we won’t question God’s ability to work the epic-proportion miracle it would take to keep anything in this country operating for 20 years. Maybe I’ll just say, “insha’ Allah” (God willing), and maybe you can forgive my sarcastic tone of voice.

Egypt’s Legislative Structure

“The initiative will be implemented during the first quarter of the current year, particularly as the legislative structure of the new tariff for renewable energy put Egypt on the map of countries producing electricity from renewable sources,” said Almanzlaoy. “Legislative”? Structure”? We don’t even have a Parliament right now…

Dear Mr. Almanzlaoy added that this agreement will be applied within specific areas in Cairo as a preliminary stage, and will then be expanded into different governorates. Epic. Proportion. Miracle. …Insha’ Allah.

image (Image note and source: This is not Egypt, but this is what my rooftop looks like in my dreams. Wikicommons)

“Solar Panels in Egypt”

Egypt is a country custom-made for solar power generation. The weather here is awesome. It’s mid-January, our grapevines are already budding, and last year’s leaves haven’t finished falling from the peach trees. I wore socks on my feet three times this winter. We have plans for solar panels on our rooftop, too. I was reading an article on cleantechnica.com and clicked on the “solar panels in Egypt” ad that targeted me. But if we get solar for our roof, insha’ Allah, I can give you a 20-year guarantee it will definitely be off grid.

Egypt’s plans for solar power generation are definitely heating up. Or maybe I’ll just say, “insha’ Allah,” and maybe you can forgive my sarcastic tone of voice.

image (Image note and source: This is a portable electricity generator in Egypt. It was hooked to a donkey. I’m not lying, I took this picture myself six months ago.)

(Top image source: wikicommons)

(Also published on Cleantechnica.com)

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