1 July 2010 – At an energy consultation on June 29 2010 that took weeks to finalize a date for, 25 Egyptians from various segments of society, including NGOs, academic institutions, and private firms, all had one clear message for the World Bank to think about when designing its new energy strategy: "focus on renewable energy projects".

Over a duration of 2.5 hours on June 29 2010, and with the assistance of video conferencing technology and simultaneous interpretation, 25 stakeholders from different sectors gathered in the World Bank office in Cairo to voice their positions on the design of the World Bank’s energy strategy. The Bank Information Center’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) team joined the consultation via video conference from the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and from where the Bank’s energy sector manager Lucio Monari and the Bank’s MENA energy sector manager, Jonathan Walters, were conducting the consultation.

While several perspectives were present, the overwhelming message was that with depletion of fossil fuels, and with the increasing change in climate, it is imperative for the World Bank to fund renewable energy projects and to promote these solutions through their technical assistance to the government.

The main source of renewable energy in Egypt is most obviously the sun and as a result solar energy in its different forms, for example concentrated solar power and photovoltaic (PV) technology were repeatedly raised as types of projects that the Bank could provide lending for. Wind power was also mentioned by some participants.

In terms of energy distribution, poverty and the lack of energy access in rural areas was also a topic where participants stressed the need for rural electrification and non-grid application. In response to the World Bank’s question on whether it had struck the right balance between its approach in middle income countries (MICs) and low income countries (LICs), one participant noted, "we in Egypt suffer from being categorized as an MIC and it is worrying that the World Bank would have a separate energy strategy for MICs and LICs. At the same time as the World Bank is classifying Egypt as an MIC, most communities are poor." While the Bank responded that these classifications are to separate International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) lending from International Development Association (IDA) lending, the participant’s comment surely provides some food for thought.

In thinking about energy use as opposed to energy production, solar cookers and solar heaters were discussed. Moreover, the desalination of water was raised as an important solution to water scarcity issues in the region.

Outside of projects in of themselves, one of the strongest asks from consultation participants, was that the World Bank use their influence through technical assistance and other instruments, to persuade governments to adopt policies that will make the renewable energy a bankable industry and one which produces energy that is affordable to the poor. An obvious example of such a policy would be for governments to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and start subsidizing renewables. A further ask, was for the Bank to help countries like Egypt with building local capacity in research and development, technology transfer, and power plant maintenance to name a few.

Overall the meeting was extremely successful and with a commitment to make these issues part of an on-going conversation, Jonathan Walters invited those who were interested to join him in a meeting in Cairo to continue the dialogue in the upcoming months, and to send further comments through the Bank’s website.

With this consultation marking the final meeting in the face-to-face consultations, the Bank’s energy team now has the job of incorporating comments from all over the world into a first draft of the energy strategy. We look forward to reading it and hope that it will reflect the calls and the needs of the people in developing countries like Egypt.