Mounting an effort to combat the blackouts and brownouts that are familiar features of life in Cairo, the Egyptian government recently secured the final piece of financing for a new 1,500-MW, combined-cycle gas-fired powerplant designed to keep the capital city’s lights on longer. With Egypt’s electricity demand set to grow 50% by 2017, the planned $1.3-billion Giza North plant represents a small but critical step toward power sufficiency.

A $384-million loan from the European Investment Bank completed financial requirements for the plant, which is 30 kilometers northwest of Cairo. The World Bank board of directors approved a $600-million loan for the project last June. The government and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting States will make up the balance.

The still-to-be-designed project will be managed and supervised by Cairo-based Power Generation Engineering and Services Co. Major components include two 750-MW modules, each with a 250-MW gas turbine and two 250-MW heat-recovery steam generators.

Egypt’s peak demand is now 23,500 MW and growing at 11.5% a year, according to the state utility Egyptian Electricity Holding Co. (EEHC). By 2027, Egypt plans to triple its current energy capacity at an estimated cost of $100 billion to $120 billion. Some observers question EEHC's ability to achieve such a goal, based on past performance.

The EEHC says it will, by 2012, be implementing various power projects totaling 7,240 MW: 6,500 MW in thermal plants, 600 MW in wind and 140 MW in solar. World Bank officials estimate Egypt’s planned investment in the years between 2007-2012 will total $20 billion in generation and $4 billion in transmission and distribution.

Following huge electricity outages this summer, the Council of Ministers last month accelerated the commissioning of the 375-MW Nubariya plant, 120 km northwest of Cairo, says Magdi Radi, council spokesperson. A new $350-million, 120-MW plant at Al-Koraymat, 90 km south of the city, is set for commissioning later this year, he adds. It will include 20 MW of solar capacity.

These plants would boost Egypt’s current 17,500-MW installed power-generating capacity. More than 85% of the country’s generation is thermal, while a hydro plant at Aswan High Dam contributes 16%.