Egypt, poor in water, plans to quadruple its desalination capacity in 5 years

  • Egypt launches tender for 17 new desalination plants
  • Eyes adding a daily desalting capacity of 2.8 million cubic meters
  • Buying water from private factories for subsidized resale
  • Focus on using solar energy to expand desalination
  • KarmSolar company aims to reduce costs by integrating utilities

CAIRO, Oct.21 (Reuters) – Water-scarcer Egypt aims to more than quadruple its desalination capacity by granting concessions from its sovereign wealth fund to private companies to build 17 factories over the next five years with sustainable solar energy.

The plan is part of Egypt’s drive to diversify its freshwater sources for a rapidly growing population as it faces competition for Nile water from the giant hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building. upstream.

The new concessions are designed to encourage private investment and technological development, two areas in which the most populous country in the Arab world has struggled.

The investment in new desalination plants would be launched with the government guarantee to buy the water and resell it to domestic and industrial consumers at a significant discount that would result in a large subsidy, according to the managing director of the fund Ayman Soliman. He declined to estimate the amount of the subsidy.

The new plants would produce a total of 2.8 million cubic meters per day, an amount that would be doubled in the longer term. Egypt has now installed a desalination capacity of around 800,000 cubic meters per day and the government is targeting 6.4 million cubic meters by 2050, according to figures from the fund.

“We have already solicited offers. What is happening is a combination of a competitive process and a limited negotiation process,” Soliman told Reuters.

The military, which under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was used to lead infrastructure development, has already built 27 desalination plants and private companies have installed them in resorts along Egypt’s arid coastlines. .


Under the 25-year concessions, the companies would bring in their own construction contractors and use high-efficiency renewables for energy. So far, the response from investors has been strong, Soliman said.

“We have received offers to build the capacity we need. Investors want to build three times as much.”

The wealth fund hopes to reduce an estimated capital cost of around $ 1,000 per cubic meter of desalinated water by 20-25% by using renewable energy, economies of scale in building factories and creative financing, including green finance.

Private resorts along Egypt’s Red Sea and Mediterranean coasts, even golf courses, use expensive fossil fuels for desalination.

“If you live in a resort you’re talking about 13 to 18 (Egyptian) pounds ($ 0.83 to $ 1.15) per cubic meter, when government rates are a tenth of that. massive subsidy that is being integrated, ”Soliman said.

The subsidy would be integrated as the difference between the cost that the government will pay to concession owners for water and the amount that the end consumer pays.

“Nile water is very cheap, but you want to diversify your dependence on water sources,” he said.


Local solar power producer and utility company KarmSolar was one of the first to publicly state that it planned to bid on part of the project. He says it can cut costs by vertically integrating electricity, water and other utilities using renewables rather than acting as a single service vendor.

With solar power plants scattered across sun-drenched Egypt, KarmSolar began building a 200 cubic meter per day pilot desalination plant in Marsa Shagra on the southern Red Sea coast, where it operated for five years. solar and diesel sources to supply. electricity to local stations.

“The machines for digging the wells are there, and we have placed the orders for the supply,” said Ibrahim Metawe, manager of the new plant, which is due to start pumping to customers by the first quarter of 2022.

Water intake wells are located a short distance inland from the sea to reduce the impact on the delicate marine environment. KarmSolar will then install turnkey reverse osmosis plants powered by both solar energy and utility grid electricity.

Options explored include filling trucks with excess water produced when solar production is at its peak during the day to supply local construction sites, bottling for sale, or simply storing for use. outside peak hours, such as at night.

Solar energy will also be used for experiments with hydroponics to grow cucumbers, tomatoes and other products that resorts are now transporting from the Nile Valley at significant expense and with loss of freshness.

“Marsa Shagra already has small greenhouses,” said Metawe.

($ 1 = 15.6600 Egyptian pounds)

Report by Patrick Werr Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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