Interview: The Dutch talk renewable energy future in Egypt



Thu, 05 Oct 2017 - 10:45 GMT


Thu, 05 Oct 2017 - 10:45 GMT

Tessa Terpstra, the Netherland’s MENA Regional Envoy for Water and Energy, Photo Courtesy of Terpstra

Tessa Terpstra, the Netherland’s MENA Regional Envoy for Water and Energy, Photo Courtesy of Terpstra

CAIRO - 5 October 2017: Egypt seeks to become a regional and global hub for energy generation, transmission and distribution to Europe. This vision was reinforced by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and worked upon by the government through mutual cooperation with other countries to boost investments in the renewable energy’s sector.

After a tripartite partnership with both Cyprus and Greece, a new cooperation between Egypt and The Netherlands (NL) is expected to emerge in the renewable energy (RE) markets, as both countries share similar agendas to raise the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources in the coming few years.

Solar PV panels - Reuters

A Dutch Foreign Ministry delegation was in Egypt last month discussing opportunities of cooperation in the renewable energy sector within the framework of both countries' views on climate change policy. Tessa Terpstra, the Netherland’s MENA Regional Envoy for Water and Energy and the head of the delegation, spoke to Egypt Today in an email interview about chances of cooperation and the future of renewable energy (RE) in Egypt.

ET: The Dutch government is moving to increase sourcing of renewable energy from14 percent to 16 percent by 2023. Egypt has also announced its RE strategy is targeting 20 percent of the electricity generation by year 2022. What do you think both countries' share in common in regards to their agenda of achieving a diverse energy mix?

Terpstra: Our countries share a similar starting point when it comes to energy. Both countries are used to the availability of their own gas and both countries now need to make the difficult transition to a more sustainable energy mix.

ET: We would like to hear more about The Netherlands' transition plan.

Terpstra: In the Netherlands we struggle to do this and have spent the last couple of years trying to align our policies, to coordinate between the different ministries responsible for energy and to involve the private sector and the general public in this energy transition. In The Netherlands we are known for the so-called ‘polder model’: including all relevant institutions and individuals in a broad dialogue to develop a common strategy for the future. We started this way of working in the late Middle Ages, before we had any formal government, to reclaim the land from the sea and build the country that we have today, with one third of the country below sea level.

ET: How can cooperation between both countries help them achieve their transition energy programs?

Terpstra: Egypt has a good energy efficiency plan, the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan or NEEAP, which we would like to help implement. To get a true sustainable energy mix, renewable energy and energy efficiency need to go hand in hand. As the Dutch are famous for their ability to economize – you might call it stinginess – we are very good at energy efficiency and would like to share our expertise with the Egyptian government and the private sector.

ET: How does NL see the future of renewable energy in Egypt?

Terpstra: Egypt clearly has a huge potential for renewable energy with its high number of sunny days, vast open space in the desert, plenty of wind and biomass. Egypt has the brainpower and innovative start-ups to make renewable energy happen. Since 2014, Egypt has made remarkable progress in electricity generation and has plans to install more renewable energy production capacity. Next to power generation, it is worthwhile to look at energy consumption. If you use your energy more efficiently, you can use less and produce less.

wind farms - reuters
Wind farms - Reuters

ET: Egypt is rich with solar and wind energy, with the day lasting 8-9 hours, and wind is at a very high speed in some places. What is the type of RE that NL is interested in tapping into in Egypt?

Terpstra: The energy partnership of The Netherlands and Egypt is new. We go back together a long way on water collaboration, but in the field of energy it is just starting. So we are still figuring out where we could best chip in our expertise. Our focus will most likely be more on energy efficiency than energy production through renewable energy, although we would be keen to work with start-ups and small and medium enterprises to help them develop their potential.

ET: Does this mean we are going to see NL investments in Egypt in the future?

Terpstra: Some of your young and promising entrepreneurs have already been spotted by Dutch investors. Next to our support for the National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAP), we will start looking for support from financial institutions together with Egyptian organizations such as the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. There are many opportunities out there; it is just a matter of bringing the right people and ideas together.

ET: Are we going to see Dutch companies investing in RE in Egypt, did your meeting in Cairo discuss this point?

Terpstra: We sure hope so! We will start building a portfolio and will hopefully be able to mention more next time we meet.

ET: Egypt is seeking to be the regional energy hub for Europe, how does NL sees this in the future, given the recent gas finds that would enable Egypt to both export and meet domestic demand?

Terpstra: The recent gas finds offshore Egypt provide a good opportunity to export gas again, especially if Egypt decreases its own domestic energy demand. Europe is a large market but energy demand growth in Europe is expected to slow down, due to energy efficiency policies and domestic production of renewable energy.

ET: Do you think a recently agreed upon Euro-Africa interconnector linking the national grids of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus would be a step towards Egypt becoming Europe's source of energy in the region?

Terpstra: Apart from export to Europe, the various gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean provide an excellent opportunity to boost regional cooperation and create more economic and political interlinkages. The energy demand in the Middle East is expected to continue to grow over the coming decades and gas can provide the necessary back-up to renewable energy when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. My advice would be to look at the regional market for your gas, in addition to export to Europe.



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