In November 2022, Egypt hosted the COP 27 conference in Sharm El Sheikh with the intention of showcasing its efforts to address climate change and signal its intention to play an influential role within the international community in redressing the development challenges linked to climate change. Its commitment to realizing such changes domestically in practice, however, has been far more circumspect. This paper examines the political economy of renewable energy in Sisi’s Egypt. Since 2013, scholars have devoted increasing attention towards understanding the politics of economic reform and the reconstitution of authoritarianism in Egypt under President Sisi. This paper deepens that conversation through an analysis of the solar energy sector in Egypt over the last decade. I argue that initiatives to support renewable energy projects like that for solar energy are an important lens through which to understand new forms of contestation between the private sector and the government; They also illuminate tensions behind the government’s desire to alleviate climate-linked development crises and its apprehension of empowering private sector actors in its efforts. In 2016, the government aggressively promoted solar energy projects through the private sector to offset an energy crisis. That support bolstered solar energy companies, with new actors entering the market. In 2020, the government suddenly shifted its policy, introducing tariffs on renewable energy, effectively debilitating private sector involvement in the solar energy sector. The policy’s initial success in curbing an energy crisis also made it apparent to many that energy independence from the government was possible for anyone with land and sun—a point, many note, that was not lost on the government. To date, little attention has been given to the politics of renewable energy in Egypt. This paper shows how energy policy has evolved since 2013 and how the government and private sector have adapted drawing on primary source documents on the solar energy industry in Egypt and interviews with policymakers and practitioners engaged in such projects in Egypt and in Europe. In doing so, this research contributes to the literature on environmental politics and climate governance and business politics in authoritarian regimes.
Architecture & Urban Planning