CAIRO – 26 September 2017: Egypt’s potential in being an energy hub in the region has been thoroughly discussed on Monday through cooperation proposals with Cyprus and Greece.
Organized by the American University in Cairo, a workshop was held at the Cairo Marriot Zamalek Hotel, where academics and officials from the three Eastern Mediterranean countries met and held in-depth panels cooperation in the field of energy and security.
Benefits of cooperation between the three countries in terms of energy cost reduction and meeting national demands were highlighted by participants.
“Egypt is our best partner and an energy player…and we must promote mutual cooperation on natural gas…because it is essential for us as Egypt has the potentials to become an energy hub in the region,” Nicholas Papadopoulos, the President of the Democratic Party in Cyprus, told Egypt Today.
Papadopoulos, who is also a presidential candidate, said that if he were to win the elections, set to be held in Feb. 2018, one of the first things his government would embark on “is to find ways to conclude commercial agreements with Egypt to exporting and exploiting natural gas.”
Panels further discussed new gas discoveries in Egypt and its viability to enhance such cooperation, like Zohr gas field, which is the largest ever natural gas found in the Mediterranean Sea.
“We do not have to wait for new discoveries…we should move forward in cooperation [between the three countries] …it is the best way…lets succeed in bringing prosperity,” said Papadopoulos.
Amr Serag Eldin, Professor at the Department of Petroleum and Energy Engineering at the AUC proposed a project of sharing energy by connecting national electric grids of both Egypt and Cyprus together, with particular emphasis on renewable energy potentials.
The project includes bridging the connection gap between both countries through the shortest route with a distance of only 338km, which can be spanned by submersible DC electrical cables, Serag Eldin told Egypt Today in an interview Monday.
Slideshow of a presentation on natural gas grid in Egypt - Photo by Nourhan Magdi/Egypt Today.
Discussing advantages of such connection, he explained that the project “shares diversified energy resources…reduces margin of inefficient spinning reserve and reduces peak loads due to different timing zones.”
According to Professor Serag Eldin, wind power would constitute the highest share of electricity generated of renewable energy in 2020, reaching 12 percent compared to only 2 percent coming from solar power and 5.8 percent from hydropower.
He explained that sharing of energy storage among the three countries allow for wider use of renewable energy, "from the concept that it is always windy somewhere."
“We have one of the best places in the world in Egypt with speed winds like in Zaafarana region, where average wind speeds reach 10m/s,” he said, adding that “future is in wind energy.”
For his part, Nabil Fahmy, dean of School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo said that despite possible challenges to the proposed cooperation, be it economic or political, they should be addressed through free tripartite debates.
Fahmy saw that integration between the three countries “achieves direct interest to Egypt.”
Benefits of this cooperation is that “it reduces cost of Egyptian product in the field of energy, enabling Egypt to export surplus energy to other countries especially in Europe, in addition to enabling it to utilize its potentials like: oil and gas refining,” he added.
Other competitors: why Turkey excluded?
During the discussions, questions rose regarding whether Turkey is a competitor to Egypt in the field of energy, where some of the participants referred to “distracting policies of Turkey in the region” as a reason of hindering possible cooperation between Ankara and the three countries.
Charalambos Papasotiriou, Professor of Strategic Studies Panteion University in Greece, praised “serious discussions” held by the three countries regarding energy cooperation, “I hope this will be a breakthrough.”
He said that Turkey is being excluded from the energy sharing concept discussed throughout the workshop, saying “Turkey’s stance has been erratic…trying to meet domestic needs of Erdogan. Turkey’s policy is not dependable or predictable…it is problematic for us.”
He added “people in the region want to avoid Turkey pipeline even if it is cheaper,” referring to the so-called Turkish Stream pipeline agreed upon last October.
Bloomberg reported in July that Turkey asked Israel to push Cyprus into allowing the pipeline to pass through its waters so the region’s natural gas can be exported to Europe.
Theodoros Tsakiris, an Assistant Professor at the University of Nicosia specializing on the geopolitics and economics of oil & gas, referred to the ongoing Turkish military occupation of the northern third of the Cyprus islands as one of the reasons for the conflict between Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.
He further explained that other reasons “have to deal with the aggressive and imperialist policy by Turkey…it is violating international maritime law and claiming parts of Cyprus and Greece do not exist."