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The Environmental Considerations of a Wind Farm in Egypt

The Environmental Considerations of a Wind Farm in Egypt

Background

-Egypt is characterized by fast growing energy demand. In order to meet the estimated demand an increase of about 37% of primary energy needs to be met by 2022. As a general strategy to meet this demand, the Government of Egypt is focusing as much as possible on locally available natural resources including expanding utilization of renewable energy sources, expansion of electricity and gas integration with neighboring countries.

-Therefore, the Egyptian Government has adopted a renewable energy strategy with the target to cover 20% of its electric power demand from renewable energy by 2022. Considering that the hydropower potential has almost been fully exploited, the utilization of wind energy is the best renewable energy choice in case of Egypt. Hence, wind energy is targeting to contribute 60% of the renewable energy share.

-The use of renewable energies is considered to be an environmentally compatible form of electricity supply. It saves CO2 emissions and contributes to resource conservation such as the indigenous oil and gas reserves.

Egypt's Wind Energy Resources

According to Egypt’s Wind Atlas, the country is endowed with abundant wind energy resources, particularly in the Gulf of Suez area. This is one of the best locations in the world for harnessing wind energy due to its high stable wind speeds that reach on average between 8 and10 m/s at a height of 100 meters, along with the availability of large uninhabited desert areas.

Moreover, promising new regions have been discovered east and west of the Nile River in the Beni Suef and Menya Governorates and El Kharga Oasis in the New Valley Governorate. They offer wind speeds that vary between 5 and 8 m/s and are suitable for electricity generation from wind and other applications such as water pumping. That ensure high productivity of wind complex on the Red Sea coastal area and the promising areas on both sides of the river Nile resulted in the allocation of approximately 7,600 km² of the land for implementing renewable energy projects. The figure below presents the new wind atlas published in 2016 on IRENA’s Global Atlas platform, measured at a resolution of 1 km and a height of 200 meters.

Legislative Framework in Egypt

-The national legal and regulatory framework for the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) in Egypt is mainly given by:

  • Environmental Law 4/1994 amended by Law 9/2009 and its Executive Regulations modified by the Prime Ministerial Decree no 1095/2011;

  • Guidelines of Principles and Procedures for Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA Guidelines”) –2nd edition (2009); and
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines and Monitoring Protocols for Wind Energy Development Projects along the Rift Valley/Red Sea Flyway with a particular reference to wind energy in support of the conservation of Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) (EEAA 2013).

- Further to the Law on Protection of the Environment and its Executive Regulations, the following legal and regulatory framework needs to be considered in case of wind energy projects:

  • - Law No. 93/1966 on Wastewater and Drainage and Decree No. 44/2000;

  • - Law No. 53/1966 on Agriculture;

  • - Law No. 38/1967 on Public Cleanliness; and

  • - Law No. 12/2003 on Labour.

Applicable International Environmental and Social Standards

- Since development of large wind farms are usually financed by one or more investment banks, the wind farm project has to follow the standards of international finance organizations. The relevant international requirements are mainly framed by the following:

  • - Equator Principles;

  • - EBRD`s Environmental and Social Policy (2014); and

  • - International Finance Corporation’s Policy on Environmental and Social Sustainability (2012) and relevant Performance Standards and EHS Guidelines.

-The purposes of these standards are to:

  • - ensure that all plans, developments and projects which are subject to investment undergo an appropriate assessment;

  • - ensure that there are no impacts associated with the proposed plan, development or project investment which are contrary to the bank’s environmental and / or social policies; and

  • - prevent reputational or financial damage to the investor.

-The Equator Principles (EPs) form benchmarks for the financial industry to manage social and environmental issues associated with projects that are sponsored or financed by institutions signed up to the principles. The EPs have been designed to ensure that adverse social and environmental impacts resulting from development are appropriately identified and managed throughout construction and operation.

The Equator Principle Financial Institutions (EPFIs) are institutions who have publicly adopted the Equator Principles and who commit to only provide loans to projects that conform to the EPs. In summary, the Equator Principles require:

  • - EP 1: A scoping assessment to categorize the project in terms of the magnitude of its potential impacts and risks.

  • - EP 2 & 3: A social and environmental assessment based on the impacts and risks identified in the scoping assessment, taking into account predefined social and environmental standards.

  • - EP 4: Preparation of an action plan to effectively manage the impacts and risks.

  • - EP 5 & 6: Undertake appropriate consultation and discourse with affected communities and set up a grievance mechanism to facilitate resolution of concerns and grievances raised.

  • - EP 7: Undertake an independent review of the process.

  • - EP 8: Establishment of covenants in financing documentation to ensure compliance with applicable laws and other requirements.

  • - EP 9: Establishment of a program of independent monitoring and reporting to ensure appropriate social and environmental performance is maintained.

  • - EP 10: Annual reporting by the Equator Principle Financial Institutions EPFI on experiences concerning the implementation of the Equator Principles.

Project Categorization

-According to the Egyptian EIA Guidelines of 2009, generation of electricity using wind or solar energy (including power lines) is classified as a Category C project. Category C projects are expected to have highly adverse impacts requiring a full EIA study. Moreover, the EIA Guidelines state that projects which have been included in a development, for which an Integrated (Strategic) EIA has already been prepared, shall abide the requirements of the category that is less strict than its original category if the projects are similar.

-The involvement of the public and concerned parties is mandatory for Category C projects through the public consultation process. The consultation process provides the concerned parties with the opportunity to indicate their opinion in the measures to minimize potential negative environmental and social impacts, strengthen social acceptance of the project, informing the concerned parties that the environmental impacts will be minimized to levels that are low as reasonably practical and achieve the balance between legitimate requirements for development and environmental protection.

The Scoping and Disk Study Approach

-This approach comprises:

1 - A scoping (incl. a comprehensive review of available data on the physical, biological and social environment of the project area, a data gap analysis in order to identify what baseline data is additionally needed and a determination of an appropriate level and extent for additional data collection), baseline studies, impact prediction and evaluation and mitigation .

2 -An extensive desk study assessment revealed baseline information on the physical, biological and social environment of the project area, especially on:

  • nationally or internationally designated nature conservation areas that might be in conflict with the project purpose;

  • protected, threatened or rare species of flora and fauna expected to be present in the area,

  • topography and geo-morphology of the greater area, climate, geology, seismology and hydrology.

 

3 -Site visits have to be conducted to gather additional and more detailed data, especially on geo-morphology, landscape characteristics and (competing) land use, plants, animals and other specific features that might exist in the project area.

 

-The outcomes of the scoping and desk study approach are detailed description of the existing Physical, Biological, Social and Economic Environments of the wind farm’s site. These might include, but not limited to:

  • Physical Environment: Climate, Air Quality, Water Resources and Waste Water, Geo- morphology and Soil, Landscape Character and Existing Views.

  • Biological Environment: Protected Areas, Habitats, Flora and Fauna and Birds migration.

  • Social and Economic Environment: Settlements, Land Use and Existing Infrastructure, Demographics, Labor Force, Archaeological, Historical and Cultural Heritage.

Impact Prediction and Evaluation

-The prediction of environmental and social impacts caused by wind farm developments in the project area is based on current knowledge on the specific impacts of wind power projects and long-lasting experience in this field and considers the results of conducted site visits. An impact is defined as any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organization`s environmental aspects such as activities, products or services. Once the impacts are fully understood, it is necessary to judge the significance of each impact, to determine whether it is acceptable, requires mitigation or is unacceptable

- Under consideration of this general approach and the specific impacts typically caused by wind power projects, one can assume that the expected or possible environmental and social effects of a large wind farm are quite limited in a desert area. This is valid for the construction, for the operation and maintenance and for the decommission phases.

Mitigation of Environmental Impacts

After having thoroughly assessed the impacts the mitigation hierarchy shall be applied as the general mitigation strategy. The first step in this process comprises measures to avoid environmental or social impacts of a plan/project, by changes in the project design or in project activities. If it is not possible to avoid an impact additional measures should be implemented to minimize the identified effect, such as shutting down turbines during a certain period of time to protect migrating birds. The remaining impacts have to be rectified, (by restoration of habitats to their original state or by relocation of affected species or habitats for example). The last option in the mitigation hierarchy is to compensate for or to offset any residual, unavoidable loss or damage. Such biodiversity offsets generally take place in a different area and aim for securing a “no net loss” outcome. The mitigation strategy shall be accompanied by a thorough risk management covering post construction monitoring and adaptive management.

Environmental and Social Management Plan

The implementation of mitigation measures require actions during the bidding, planning, construction and post-construction phase for the wind farm. In addition, all relevant residual impacts need to be compensated by appropriate offset measures to be defined in project-specific ESIA studies.

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Dr. Amal Khashab's picture

Thank Dr. Amal for the Post!

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