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Orascom Construction to build coal-fired power plant
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Orascom Construction, the mammoth cement and engineering firm owned by Egypt’s richest man, Nassef Sawiris, today announced plans to construct a coal-fired power plant near Hamarawein port on the Red Sea coast.

The plant, which will be developed in partnership with the Abu Dhabi government-owned firm International Petroleum Investment Company, will have a capacity of 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts.

Today’s announcement follows news yesterday that Orascom Construction won an appeal in a tax dispute with Egypt’s government relating to the 2007 sale of the company’s cement assets to LaFarge Egypt.

Following the verdict, Sawiris vowed to channel resources toward new investments in Egypt.

“Growth in power generation is crucial to the sustained development of the Egyptian economy,” Sawiris said in a statement today.

“As a company wholly owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi and under the direction of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, IPIC is proud to play a role in assisting Egypt in meeting its current and future energy needs,” added IPIC Managing Director Khadem al-Qubaisi.

Egypt faces an energy shortage that has frequently left households and business without electricity, and throughout the spring and summer industry was hit hard by daily power cuts that left factories idle.

In April, the government overturned a ban on coal imports for industry and power generation, despite objections from civil society, tourism and environmental groups who were concerned about the environmental and public health effects of burning coal. 

Opponents of coal imports advocated instead for investment in alternative energy such as wind and solar power, but industry groups, particularly cement firms, have been quick to adopt coal as a cheap and available power source.

The government promised to develop regulations for the handling and burning of coal, in line with European Union standards. The status of these regulations remains unclear, but Egypt’s cabinet announced Sunday that it may offer deals to 38 local and international firms to create electricity generation projects using renewable energy or coal.

In today’s statement, Orascom said its plant would use “advanced clean-coal technology that complies with EU standards for emission control.”

Hamarawein port, which is currently used for phosphate exports, is about 150 kilometers south of Gouna, the resort town built by Nassef’s brother, Samih Sawiris, which in early 2014 announced plans to certify as Africa’s first carbon neutral city.