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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Egyptian solar industry wins $1.8bn investment for 29 new projects

Photovoltaic plants to be built by developers including Dubai's Access Power MEA

The Egyptian solar plants will be built by developers including Dubai's Access Power MEA. Money Sharma / AFP
The Egyptian solar plants will be built by developers including Dubai's Access Power MEA. Money Sharma / AFP

Egypt’s fledgling solar industry attracted US$1.8 billion of investment, largely from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), with investors including Islamic Development Bank, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).

The EBRD is backing 16 photovoltaic projects, to be built by developers including Dubai's Access Power MEA, and the IFC is financing 13 in the sunny North African nation with a combined capacity of 1.4 gigawatts. They are writing loans for $380 million and $203m, respectively, and have mobilised the rest from co-investors.

“These are the first private renewable energy projects in Egypt, and it’s not an easy macroeconomic or geopolitical situation,” said Harry Boyd-Carpenter, the head of power and energy utilities at the London-based development bank. “Yet because it’s got the right regulatory framework in place, Egypt has been able to attract all of these different investors and should comfortably get more than a gigawatt of capacity financed this year.”

Egypt is targeting to generate 20 per cent of its electricity from clean sources by 2022. It currently gets more than 90 per cent of its power from oil and gas, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The solar projects that got funding are being developed in the Benban solar park in Egypt’s Aswan province in the south-east. The site is expected to have a capacity of 1.8 gigawatts and cost $2.8bn by the time it is complete in the first half of 2019.

Other international developers involved include Saudi Arabia's Acwa Power and Al Fanar, Scatec Solar of Norway, the French firms EDF Energies Nouvelles and Eren Renewable Energy.

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The loans are part of a programme that the EBRD began in 2015 to invest as much as $500m in solar in Egypt. The plan was delayed due to the devaluation of the Egyptian pound and the fact that the government initially did not allow international arbitration for renewable energy contracts. A $12bn aid package from the IMF last November alleviated some of those concerns.

The EBRD is co-investing with Proparco, the Islamic Development Bank and the Green Climate Fund, according to Mr Boyd-Carpenter. The IFC is working with the African Development Bank, Finnfund, China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, among others, said the spokeswoman Riham Mustafa. The Washington-based bank has lined up loan deals for all of its projects except two, which is expects to sign this week, she said.

“Local Egyptian banks have problems financing these projects because the tariff is paid in Egyptian pounds but the debt is raised in dollars so that creates issues for that,” Mr Boyd-Carpenter said, referring to the volatility of the local currency.

Egypt currently has a feed-in tariff programme, locking in long-term prices for the electricity generated by the solar projects. Authorities are likely to switch to a competitive auction system next year, according to the EBRD, which is advising the Ministry of Energy.