If you could save energy as well as money, why wouldn’t you? This is the question the Government of Egypt is putting to its citizens.
In Egypt, lighting represents more than 20 percent of total electricity consumption at the national level, even though it is one of the simplest to upgrade for efficiency gains. The Government of Egypt saw in this a national opportunity for cost-savings and climate change mitigation.
By 2020, it is envisaged the Egyptian market will complete the transformation to energy-efficient lighting systems as the first choice for residential, commercial and administrative buildings. To help achieve this goal, the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy is partnering with UNDP to implement the ‘Improving energy efficiency in lighting and other building appliances’ project with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
So far, the project has had great success, and the number of LED lamps distributed in Egypt is estimated to have reached 100 million in the last few years. One prominent example is the emergence of Bibliotheca Alexandrina as a pioneer and early adopter of this modern LED technology; the conversion of the main conference hall in early 2016 from traditional non-efficient systems signified a shift in momentum and was a source of inspiration for other public buildings to follow.
Other flagship successes are the move from the Commercial International Bank (CIB), one of the largest banks in Egypt, to proceed with the installation of LED lighting technology in all of its 160 branches in Egypt. This decision was triggered by the realization that the installation of the technology in their Merryland branch in Cairo was reducing electricity consumption by 35 percent, and now savings made in each branch have been within the range of 30 percent to 50 per cent of total electricity consumption.
The CEDARE building, an eight-storey business building in the Heliopolis area in Cairo, has also adopted energy-efficient lighting systems and has reported 41 percent reductions in energy consumption, leading to significant cost-savings. After the change in the lighting systems, one of the two air conditioning chillers, which used to work all year round, was switched off due to the removal of the thermal load associated with the traditional lighting systems, making a significant contribution to the reduction in electricity demand.
Such success is not only encouraging public and private sector enterprises to use energy-efficient systems but also raising awareness about the costs that could be saved in households.
The transformation has now reached the hospitality sector where the project supported hotel chain JW Marriott to convert its lighting systems in its New Cairo resort. The new system has reduced the total electricity consumption by approximately 25 percent. The savings reached about 4 million kWhr per year, equivalent to the electricity consumed by more than 1,500 average households in Egypt over a year. Subsequently, the Marriott hotel group has decided to transform all 18 of its hotels in Egypt, making the positive environmental impacts significantly higher.
The retail market has also been engaging with the initiative, with the Metro chain of supermarkets retrofitting one of its branches in Cairo with LED lighting systems. It saved 30 percent of the total electricity costs and a short payback period of four months has supported the decision to expand the initiative to all 97 Metro branches and to its sister supermarket chain Khair Zaman as well as warehouses and administration offices.
As a result, the Carrefour chain of supermarkets began converting its 32 branches in Egypt, while two other large supermarket chains received technical assistance and are currently negotiating with lending entities to convert all of their branches. Other chains have undertaken conversions without any assistance from the project.
This initiative was supported by a large media campaign on energy efficiency led by the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy, which likely inspired many households to consider their energy use and lighting systems.
The Government’s gradual removal of energy subsidies has also supported this market transformation. Currently the Government is embarking on a large national programme to convert street lighting to LED.
Every entity that converts to energy efficient lighting will make significant savings. The resultant surplus cash can be used for anything from controlling prices of commodities to contributing towards business investment. Re-directing this money could have significant positive impacts on the national economy and on the lives of those making this change.
In light of the Global Climate Action Summit and the upcoming COP24, which are putting the spotlight on sub-national climate action and engaging the private sector in the fight against climate change, the success of these ongoing urban transformations in Egypt can act as an inspiration to municipalities, businesses and households in other countries and regions around the world.
What makes this initiative so compelling is that the short-term benefits of cost-savings act as a strong incentive to undertake this specific climate change mitigation strategy, especially when coupled with the relative ease of changing lights compared to other more complex interventions. Increasing energy efficiency in general is a win-win method to save money and mitigate climate change, and reducing energy consumption by upgrading lighting systems is the lowest hanging fruit available.
Story and photos by UNDP Egypt