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Published July 3, 2008 11:05 AM

Egyptian centre to push Middle East renewables

by Wagdy Sawahel

[CAIRO] Egypt has established a US$30 million centre for renewable energy for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The Regional Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, located at Nasser City, Cairo, was opened last week (25 June) at a ceremony in Cairo.

It is supported by grants of US$11 million from the European Union through the European Investment Bank and the European Commission in Egypt, US$9.5 million from the German Agency for Technical Cooperation and US$3 million from the Danish International Development Agency. The Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Energy is contributing US$6.3 million.

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The centre will carry out research on renewable energy, including the testing of solar and wind power technologies.

It will provide consultancy services to governments and private companies, promote knowledge and technology transfer between companies and governments in the region and the North, and run training programmes to help set up technologies around the region.

The centre will also have direct contact with research centres in Europe dealing with renewable energy and take part in formulating policies related to renewable energy.

The initial grants from the Egyptian and European governments will support the scientific activities for the next five years, says Fathy Ameen Mohammad, vice chairman for projects, operations and maintenance at Egypt's New & Renewable Energy Authority. After this period the centre should be able to finance itself through its consultancy and training services.

The centre will be governed by a board including representatives from member countries including Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. This board will guide the centre to promote plans for renewable energy in the region as well as helping the private sector to invest in renewable energy.

Wael Hmaidan, executive director of the Lebanon-based environmental group IndyAct (The League of Independent Activists) says, "If we cover only one per cent of the Arabian Desert with concentrated solar power technology, we can produce enough electricity to power the whole planet".

Hmaidan adds that the region's strategic location increases the importance of its renewable energy potential. "Situated in the middle of the old world, between Europe, Africa and Asia, we can supply solar electricity through efficient high-voltage lines to all three continents," he says.

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