15 August 2012 – Ahram Online reports that a spike in power cuts and electricity shortages across Egypt are being caused by protests at power plants, theft and fuel shortages, according to an electricity ministry spokesperson.

Egypt has been suffering an increasing number of power cuts in recent weeks, which have sparked protests in various governorates across the country. Power cuts in Cairo and other major cities can last up to 90 minutes and occur every couple of days. In villages the power cuts are more frequent and can last five hours or more.

Aktham Abolela, spokesperson for the ministry of electricity, told Ahram Online, “It is not our fault. The ministry had a plan to operate two new power plants by the end of May but protests by local people at the sites prevented them from being completed.”

Power plants in the Nile Delta governorates of Damietta and Beheira faced protests from locals who either objected to their location or demand compensation for the plants being built on their land.

The shortage of fuel and natural gas is partially responsible for the electricity shortage, Abolela claims and also says the lack of security after the revolution in Egypt has resulted in more theft of electricity.

An increase in the use of air conditioning due to higher summer temperatures in recent years can also be blamed for increased electricity consumption in Egypt despite the economic slowdown. There are more than six million air conditioning units in Egypt today, up from three million in 2009 and 196,000 in 1999. These devices account for 20% of total electricity use, according to Abolela.

Households account for 42% of total electricity consumption in Egypt, while industry consumes 32%, down from 38% in 2007. The figures are taken from a report on electricity consumption prepared for the minister of electricity.  

The unpredictable nature of power cuts makes it difficult to warn the public about them prior to their occurrence, Abolela says. He agrees that street lamps being in use during the daytime are a common phenomenon that needs to be tackled. Street lamps consume 6% of electricity production.