CAIRO - Egypt, which plans to start its first solar power unit in 2010, said on Tuesday it wanted to expand solar power production for export but that costs of the technology would need to fall first to make it feasible.
The North African country, a gas and oil producer, aims to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. It already has installed wind capacity of 430 megawatts and is adding 120 megawatts by mid 2010.
Wind farms are expected to meet 12 percent of Egypt's power needs by 2020 but solar power projects have lagged.
Solar energy is four times as expensive as energy generated from combined cycles so when this figure starts going down to three or two times as much, this is when we will see developing countries go heavily into the business, Electricity and Energy Minister Hassan Younes told Reuters.
Exports are in our plan, but taking into consideration the development of suitable technology and its spread so that the price goes down, he added.
Egypt, whose population is concentrated on just 10 percent of its land, has ample desert areas to set up solar power units. The most populous Arab country is also situated in the sun belt where sunshine is available all year round for power generation.
Younes told a conference on renewable energy that Egypt could export to Europe via Libya and Tunisia, which are in turn linked with Morocco and Spain.
As a first step, Egypt would install capacity of 140 megawatts from its solar project south of Cairo at Koraymat for domestic consumption by the end of 2010, Younes said.
European governments, which depend significantly on Russia for energy, are looking at renewables to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Some plans envisage importing solar power generated from Africa.
(Editing by James Jukwey)