CairoMustafa Obaid and his neighbors in the city of Biba in Beni Suef (south of Cairo) tried to call the emergency numbers and the fire brigade to no avail. There were no communications networks operating for an hour, after the first hour of a power outage in the area, which plunged into darkness before the horizon was illuminated by a large fire in one of the houses that turned dark. Cold and burning day.
The mobile phone towers malfunctioned after their energy reserves ran out during the prolonged power outage – according to specialists – which caused a complete paralysis of communication between citizens during that period.
The phenomenon of frequent power outages has returned in Egypt recently, after it had disappeared with the end of the summer season, during which electricity consumption doubled due to the operation of air conditioners, which prompted the government at the time to reduce loads by cutting off electricity to entire areas within a specific time that has recently increased to reach two hours in some areas despite the low temperatures. Heat and reduced electricity consumption.
The outage affects the efficiency of many services, including communications, paralyzing them in some areas.
Government statements attributed the return of the outage phenomenon to the shortage of gas required to operate power generation stations, despite the government’s preaching to Egyptians about increased production of natural gas, which prompted questions about the secret of the shortage of gas required to operate generation stations.
The Israeli occupation army’s strikes on Gaza were echoed in Egypt, plunging the country into complete darkness for an hour or two a day, after Israel stopped pumping gas to Egypt at the usual rate.
Although Israeli gas was partially restored, the power outages continued.
On the other hand, citizens in some areas of Cairo reported that the duration of the outage decreased over the past two days from two hours to one hour.
The government was investing Israeli gas imports in liquefaction operations, and then exporting it to Europe, in an effort to generate dollar revenues that Egypt is increasingly in need of.
The government was forced to liquefy part of its local gas production in the stations to compensate for the share required to be exported in order to save hard currency, which negatively affected the needs of the local power generation stations, which reduced their operating hours, causing electricity to be cut off for specific periods in most areas of the country.
In the face of the decline in tourism revenues from hard currency in light of the cancellation of 25,000 reservations and the closure of 90% of hotel establishments in Sinai – according to statistics from the Chamber of Tourism – the government searched for alternatives to saving the dollar, observers say.
These developments doubled Egypt’s need for dollar revenues to pay its obligations represented by foreign debt installments, which – according to semi-official statistics – exceeded $172 billion.
Egypt’s imports of Israeli natural gas increased by about 133% within a week, reaching 350 million cubic feet per day, according to press statements by Egyptian officials.
The level of Egypt’s imports of Israeli gas is still lower than it was before the beginning of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians.
Natural gas imports from Israel to Egypt late last month amounted to about 150 million cubic feet per day, compared to 800 million a month before the situation in the occupied territories deteriorated.
These quantities are being liquefied in the Idku and Damietta plants, before being exported and generating revenues exceeding $8 billion in 2022 from the sale of natural and liquefied gas.
Hard currency pressures
In this regard, the head of the Economics Department at the Faculty of Commerce, Cairo University, Rashad Abdo, confirmed that Egypt is forced to take the bitter medicine of the possibility of a power outage, instead of stopping the payment of $17 billion by the end of the current year, and $24 billion by the end of next year in debt installments.
Abdo explained – in an interview with Al Jazeera Net – that liquefying Israeli gas in Egyptian liquefaction stations makes a huge difference in the price of gas, in a way that increases Egypt’s dollar revenues and provides more income to the balance of payments, which desperately needs hard currency.
He pointed out that last summer witnessed the consumption of huge quantities of gas due to the use of air conditioners, which led to the depletion of a large portion of the gas originally intended for export.
Dr. Abdo added, “The bet was on the winter – a boom season for tourism – to compensate for the lack of dollar revenues, and then continue to pay debt installments, but the events in Gaza and their repercussions on Egypt prompted the government to bet on diverting local gas to liquefaction stations and then exporting it instead of consuming it locally.” “.
For his part, economic expert Hani Adel attributed the increasing electricity outage in Egypt to the government being forced to replace it with local gas after the Israeli cut off supplying liquefaction stations, in fulfillment of international commitments to export gas to Europe with specific quotas and agreements, in light of the cessation of Russian gas supplies to the Old Continent.
This option came at the expense of the Egyptian citizen, as the gas allocated to power generation plants was reduced, which contributed to continuous power outages.
In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Adel agrees with the opinion that the government wants to fill the dollar shortage through this solution, given the obligations to pay debt installments that haunt the government periodically.
What are the alternatives?
Economist Wael Al-Nahhas downplayed the importance of reports that Egypt does not rely entirely on Israeli gas to generate electricity locally, stressing the difficulty of ascertaining this matter, especially since this gas is pumped into pipelines and enters the local market in a way that makes it difficult to separate what is intended for export. And allocated for local consumption.
Regarding the alternatives available to the government to bypass the domestic electricity cuts, the economic expert Al-Nahhas said – in an interview with Al Jazeera Net – that the options seem limited:
- First: Not focusing solely on gas to generate electricity, and relying – in return – on diesel, despite its high cost.
- Secondly, it is possible to rely on alternative energy represented by solar energy and wind energy to generate electricity, but this requires high investments.
- Third: Increasing gas exploration operations, by providing incentives for investment in this field, in a way that makes the country self-sufficient in energy, to meet local and global demand, and prevent resorting to the option of reducing electricity loads in the future, because of the damage that this has on the investment climate and various economic activities.
- Rationalizing methods for dealing with Egypt’s gas fields, and working to develop them according to systematic plans.
- There is a need for an official and popular trend to reduce consumption in a way that prevents the consumption of large quantities of natural gas, which will contribute to reducing the energy bill.
Egyptians criticized the government’s expansion of cutting off electricity at an unprecedented rate, without taking into account the suffering of citizens as a result of this measure.
Talib Tariq Nabil (lawyer) said that the government must demand compensation from Israel for the interruption of natural gas supplies, and he saw – in an interview with Al Jazeera Net – that it is not permissible to invoke war because Israel was the one who started it and has the right to stop it and solve the crisis that it created for itself and for the world, just as it is not permissible to Holding citizens accountable for Israel’s failure to fulfill its contractual obligations.
For his part, Ahmed Al-Barbari (a teacher in a Cairo school) mocked such measures, and said that the government relied on the “leaning wall,” which is the citizen, which is an Egyptian expression that means choosing the easiest solution and shifting the burden to the weaker side, adding that the educational system suffers from power outages. .
As for Mahmoud Salama (a nurse in a Giza hospital), he said that the long period of power outage causes a decrease in the efficiency of hospitals, due to their dependence on generators.