In a fast-developing world, imaginative solutions are required to lead smarter developments in the most efficient way at a minimum cost. As we move towards a more energy efficient direction in building, appliances, transport, lighting, and industry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) highlights that 80% of energy reservation could be applicable in the building sector worldwide; in some cases, applying eco-friendly solutions would save USD 1 trillion worth of energy costs annually.
In an effort to meet the world’s standards in energy reservation, Egypt has finally launched a Central Unit for Sustainable Cities and Renewable Energy, aiming to develop 14 solar energy plants and reduce 179 tons of Carbon Dioxide gas in new cities, according to Egypt’s State Information Service.
“We have a problem today in water, energy, and waste, where we cannot build new homes that consume energy in the old traditional way; therefore, we need to apply a reserving policy to save energy and make a wide use of solar energy,” Consultant at the Ministry of Environment Hussein Abaza tells Invest-Gate.
Egypt’s buildings take up around 42% of cumulative electricity consumption, which is considered greater than the consumption of industrial sector, according to statistical data given from New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) Executive Manager of Central Unit for Sustainable Cities and Renewable Energy Hend Farouh, Al Ahram previously reported.
In that perspective, the Egyptian government has gone green with its social housing projects across its new cities master plan. Around four solar heaters have been recently installed in four residential buildings located at New Tiba City, along with 10 others installed in Sadat City as part of an existing initiative called Shamsk Ya Masr (Your Sun, Egypt).
Shamsk Ya Masr is a collaboration between the Housing Ministry and NUCA that began by using a solar system in NUCA’s headquarter in Sheikh Zayed, according to a released statement on NUCA’s official website.
The project aims to reduce energy consumption in NUCA’s headquarter through used efficient lighting and providing electrical solar cells that are necessary in a suitable rate based on the technical conditions of the building. The construction is to also include a consumption meter to measure the amount of energy used from traditional generators affiliated from a public network and energy utilized from the electrical solar cells.
The city of Sheikh Zayed has been recently categorized as a green sustainable city with an eco-friendly cultural center built from leftover building materials and waste. The building is to include solar pallets for external and internal lighting, creating a zero-energy consumption rate, according to NUCA.The government has succeeded in installing solar water heaters in residential developments across Sohag, Assiut, Badr, and Qena governorates, emphasizing Egypt’s diversion to solar energy as a successful approach according to Farouh.
The country has recently been developing plans to reserve energy, reduce building wastes, and use renewable energy in various forms. These concepts have been elucidatory applied in several initiatives such as Design, Build, and Breathe suggested by the Ministry of Environment and Scientific Research Academy to meet Egypt 2030, a vision launched by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
The initiative aims to make use of various forms of lighting efficiency such as the ones applied across several cities and national roads such as Tiba/ Qena Desert Road. The 4- kilometer- Tiba/ Qena Desert Road uses central solar energy and LED lighting; and therefore, it is considered a successful energy reservation model that can be applicable in new cities, according to government claims.
Egypt has not only managed to introduce applicable solutions for conserving energy in new cities but also made clean energy sources affordable to low- and middle-income citizens, claims NUCA. According to Al Ahram, the government is currently studying the possibility of converting rooftops of locals to small sustainable gardens without using soil. The mini-agricultural land will act as an eco-friendly solution for gas emissions. Residents will profit from the harvested crops and they will also be able to distribute air during the summer and reserve heat during the winter, which will inevitably lead to a decrease in AC consumption.
“Economically challenged Egyptians can contribute to an eco-friendly environment by relying on natural ventilation in the summer, for example. Such simple solutions increase comfort in spaces and decrease energy bills,” suggest Principal and Founding Partner at Mostadahm Architects Tarek Rakha as a starting point.
Other suggestions from Abaza include the use of local construction materials, use of renewable energy in heat insulation, lighting, cooling system, and water preservation.
Abaza notes that the initial cost of eco-friendly construction is high “but on the long run, it is guaranteed to cut operational costs,” he says.
To achieve its clean energy plan, NUCA seeks to gradually transform the new cities into sustainable ones through plans to develop more solar energy facilities in New Salhiya, Sherouk City, New Assiut, New Beni Suef, and 6th of October City. Also in the pipeline, NUCA is to install a solar station in Sheikh Zayed’s central park and a new lighting system for main roads at Bait Al Watan project.
Although while some might think that government’s initiatives towards sustainable new cities seems a positive approach, others like Rakha, believe that there is a challenge in maintaining a correlated relationship between the new cities and their surrounding developments, making construction planning inevitably intricate.
“We must ask how citizens will get to the new cities… If the government constructs more roads then that will contribute negatively to greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, decrease in human health, and noise,” he adds.
Rakha also emphasizes the importance of developing district and city-scale energy systems targeting cooling and heating, smart grid systems, and the integration of renewable energy to assure the mitigation of a sustainable city.
The future of sustainable new cities remains ambiguous in the light of implementing complex green systems; however, the current initiative along with citizens’ changing behavior may guarantee the rise of sustainable new cities as a model that could be further achieved.