Egypt’s cabinet has approved a plan to ration electricity to save natural gas that it will instead divert to the export market to generate foreign currency, it said on Thursday.
Egypt has suffered from an acute foreign currency shortage since Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, which pushed up global commodity prices, led to the collapse of tourism from the two countries and drove up the cost of borrowing.
Under the draft plan, shops and malls will have to limit their use of strong lights and keep their air conditioning at no cooler than 25 degrees Celsius.
Ministries and government facilities will have to turn off lighting at the end of working hours, the statement added. Street lighting will also be reduced.
The government last month postponed a planned increase in electricity prices by six months. The higher prices would have been intensely unpopular among a population that over the last few years has endured a series of harsh austerity measures.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said the government hoped to reduce the amount of gas used to generate electricity by 15%. He said domestic power plants bought their natural gas at one-tenth the price that it could fetch on international markets.
Europe has been seeking alternative sources of gas to cut its reliance on Russian gas as the war in Ukraine escalates.
Rapid growth in Egypt’s natural gas supplies, boosted by the discovery of the Mediterranean’s largest field, turned it from a net importer to an exporter in late 2018.
Egypt exported 9.45 million cubic meters of liquid natural gas in the first seven months of 2022, up 44% from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data.