CAIRO, April 14 Egypt, grappling with an energy
crunch, will enforce a ban on the production and import of air
conditioners that can be set lower than 20 degrees Celsius,
aiming to reassure citizens and industry hit with power cuts and
The failure of successive governments in Cairo to develop
sound energy policies has discouraged foreign companies from
tapping gas reserves needed to meet increasing consumption in
the most populous Arab country.
Power generation in Egypt is largely dependent on natural
gas, now in short supply. The government predicts production
will fail to meet surging domestic demand in the next fiscal
year, starting in July.
Trade, Industry and Investment Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel
Nour cast the restrictions on air conditioners as a part of the
government plan to cut energy use in order to ease the worsening
crisis in the sector.
The decision was taken last year but will be implemented
starting mid-June, Abdel Nour said in a statement.
The ban on air conditioners outside the government's
specification will contribute to "easing the burden on Egyptian
families," the minister said.
Egypt will hold presidential elections late next month, just
before the hot summer months when air conditioners are cranked
up, adding pressure to an already stretched electricity grid.
Chaos in the politically-sensitive energy sector, currently
kept afloat by petroleum product handouts from Gulf Arab
countries, will be among the biggest challenges facing the
country's next president.
Long lines at gas stations and power cuts fuelled popular
anger against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi ahead of his
ouster by the army last summer.
Experts say the energy crunch is worsening and will not be
resolved until more gas production comes onstream, which is
dependent on Cairo encouraging large investments. Such long-term
policy decisions have been put off repeatedly.
With daily power cuts darkening homes and businesses ahead
of the summer, the government is keen to be seen as active in
tackling the shortages, though some ministers have acknowledged
the problem is insurmountable in the short-term.
The electricity minister said on Saturday the government
would not be able to prevent power cuts this summer.
(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Maggie Fick; Editing by Mark