The Egyptian Electricity Holding Company plans to sign seven agreements with Chinese coal-power generation companies, the electricity ministry announced Tuesday.
The announcement came during a state visit to China. Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker is part of a delegation accompanying President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on the four day visit, which aims to strengthen economic and political ties between the two countries.
China, which depends on coal for 70 percent of its energy, is the world’s largest consumer of coal, and also the country with the highest level of carbon emissions. Even accounting for its vast population, China’s carbon footprint is huge, with per capita emissions exceeding levels in the European Union.
The use of the highly polluting fuel has powered China into a global manufacturing powerhouse. The past 12 years saw China’s economy triple, while coal growth doubled.
China’s reliance on coal has come at a cost. Its cities have become notorious for air pollution, with nearly all major population centers failing to meet government air standards. Air pollution was responsible for 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, according to a study published by British Medical journal the Lancet.
China has recently committed to reducing its emissions, and official data suggests that coal usage actually dropped slightly in the second and third quarters of 2013, even as demand for energy increased.
Egypt’s government, by contrast, voted in April to overturn a ban on coal imports, allowing the fuel to be used for both industry and power generation.
In addition to the deals signed in China this week, Egypt has signed memoranda of understanding with two companies to build coal-fired power plants. Abu Dhabi-based Al-Nowais company will build a 3,600 megawatt plant in the Ayoun Moussa area of South Sinai, while Orascom Construction is planning a 2,000 to 3,000 megawatt plant near Hamarawein port on the Red Sea coast.
Cement companies have also begun converting their factories to operate with coal.
Even as coal power grew in China, the country made significant progress in introducing alternative energy projects. In 2012, the government called for a “revolution in energy production and consumption.”
Now, China’s renewable energy systems are growing faster than its fossil fuel generation. In 2015, it is expected to reach its goal of 35,000 megawatts of solar energy capacity by 2015 and exceed its goal of 100,000 megawatts of wind energy.
Egypt has committed to generating 20 percent of its energy by renewables by the year 2020, but has made little progress towards this goal. Private companies offering off-grid solutions have grown in recent years, but official projects have stagnated. As of early December, Egypt only had about 270 megawatts worth of wind and energy projects connected to its grid, none of which was actually generating energy at the time.
According to reports in state media, Egypt and China have also pledged to cooperate on renewable energy projects, although no specific details have been released about these plans.