Until recently, Egypt’s government spent more on electricity subsidies than it spent on education, health care, and social welfare combined. But three years ago, officials launched a World Bank Group-supported program designed to reform the power sector and encourage investment from private companies. Six million solar panels later, the Benban Solar Park—more than 32 contiguous solar projects across 36 square kilometers of Egyptian desert—is poised to become the largest solar installation in the world. It will generate over 2,000 megawatts of power, lighting up hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Once operational, Benban is expected to avoid 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, the equivalent of taking about 400,000 cars off the road. will create 4,000 jobs in southern Egypt, where unemployment is high, especially among young people.
IFC spearheaded the financing package, marshalling $653 million in loans from a consortium of nine international banks. The World Bank supported reforms to Egypt’s electricity sector and provided the country with a $3 billion loan, while the Multilateral Investment and Guarantee Agency (MIGA), another institution of the World Bank Group, provided $210 million worth of political risk insurance to encourage private lenders to invest.
IFC has also been managing the requirements of such a transformational initiative. Our Environmental and Social Performance Standards have guided occupational health and safety measures, transportation risk, labor, solid waste and waste water management, and water management. We have supported the capacity-building of individual sponsors, their contractors and subcontractors, and the company responsible for providing operational services for the park.
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Published in January 2019