CAIRO - How do you turn a blackout into a business opportunity?
According to some consumption statistics, Cairo is also one of the world’s most brightly lit cities, with such high amounts of energy used for illuminating homes and streets that can often exceed the capacity of what electricity networks can deliver. That leaves the government with a stark choice: either increase energy generation or reduce consumption.
Amr Farouk, an expert in renewable energy and co-founder of Egypt’s Solar Energy Association, said Egypt’s energy consumption has gradually changed over the years. People now use many more electrical devices, especially in the summer. Every single air conditioner in the country may sometimes be at work for about 11 hours daily.
The ordinary Egyptian household uses an average of five kilowatts of energy per day, which means that it consumes about 1,500 kilowatt hours monthly, says Farouk. Egyptians, he says, lack a basic awareness about how energy is consumed -- and preserved. “They think it’s a complicated process, although there are easy ways to make more than 15 percent energy savings, and good alternatives to traditional power consumption habits,” he explains.
Among these: energy-saving light bulbs, which can conserve 70 percent of energy consumption compared to other light bulbs. Installing 10,000 solar water heaters annually for the next 30 years could also compensate for one of the four nuclear stations the government intends to establish by 2050, he says. And, replacing old air conditioners with new high-efficiency devices is another effective energy-saving device, as their capacity decreases over time, causing them to consume higher amounts of electricity.
Moreover, Farouk says several other countries have managed to increase the use of renewable energy, including Germany and India. He says that Germany began early by providing tax deduction incentives to residents installing solar panels. In India, microloans were provided for those interested in switching to solar. Farouk says the Indian model is probably closer to conditions in Egypt, and he suggests a similar approach to encourage the use of renewable energy here.
Although the repeated blackouts of the past few months angered many, they also opened the door for creative solutions to overcome the problem. Farouk proposes applying a consumption model that turns people from energy consumers to energy producers — and help them make money. He says the trend toward renewable energy no longer focuses only on large entities but instead targets “the bottom of the pyramid,” people in their homes and at their work.
“We can change consumers to producers, by installing renewable energy equipment in households,” Farouk explains. “For example, photovoltaic cells that are used for the generation of electricity can be installed in normal houses to generate electricity either for the same house or for the neighboring houses when connected using a mini-grid."
He also said photovoltaic cells could be connected to the main grid and pump the energy to the grid, a process used in many countries to allow consumers not only to generate their own energy, but also to sell the excess energy to the grid.
During the blackout days, many shops, restaurants and hotel owners bought expensive diesel generators that also pollute the environment. According to Farouk, the grid project could be applied here, as the photocells are not expensive and are environment-friendly. However, to implement the grid-connected solution, the relevant regulations need to be revisited.
Farouk says the government, NGOs, financial institutions, and businesses must all be involved in making a renewable energy initiative work. Governments identify the framework for the system to work, and banks can provide funds for renewable energy projects.
“Nowadays, we face a lot of challenges in Egypt. That’s why we need to cooperate and take the best of the organizations, the groups and even the individuals who have knowledge and technology because, with cooperation, challenges turn into potential products,” says Jay Cousins, one of the co-founders of icecairo, an Egyptian-run network that promotes environmentally-friendly business, with the support of German organization GIZ. “In addition to helping communities, we create business opportunities for people through developing those green technologies.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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