At a site in the Western Desert, some 650 km south of Cairo, one of the world’s largest and most ambitious solar energy projects is underway.
The Benban Solar Park will produce enough electricity to power one million homes. But more than that, it is part of a whole new strategy for infrastructure projects that will see the Egyptian government start to work closely with private enterprise.
It is expected to go live in 2019, at which point it will house 32 power stations across a 37km2 site, and will be capable of generating 1,650 megawatts of electricity. This will go a long way toward Egypt hitting its goal of having 20% of its energy needs met by renewables.
But the effect it will have on the economic fabric and policy-making strategies of the country are equally significant. Egypt is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and almost all the country’s power facilities have been built and owned by the government. The government also runs a series of costly fuel subsidy schemes, which add up to more than it spends on education, health care, and social welfare combined. The Benban project, however, is being created by a consortium of 13 private enterprises working in conjunction with the Egyptian public sector.