CAIRO - President Abdel Fattah Sisi prepared Egyptians on Saturday for more blackouts after lights went out across much of the country this week, saying it would take time and cost the cash-strapped state $12 billion to upgrade the decrepit power grid.
Daily power cuts have become commonplace even in the capital Cairo but on Thursday extensive outages hit about half of Egypt, causing blackouts, halting factories and shutting part of the Cairo metro system.
The disruption sparked an uproar in the Arab world's most populous country, where energy is a politically explosive issue.
Energy shortages and outages were a key factor in deepening discontent with Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who faced mass protests before Sisi, then army chief, ousted him last year.
In a candid television address on Saturday, Sisi said the dilapidated state of Egypt's power grid was the result of years of underinvestment and admitted there was no instant solution.
"Have we developed our electricity production to meet our needs? Made stations to meet our needs? This did not happen because the financing required is large," Sisi said.
"We must understand that matter cannot at all be resolved and remedied overnight."
Egypt needed to add 12,000 megawatts to its grid over the next five years at a capital cost of about $12 billion, the president said.
Each new power station would need fuel worth $700 million a year, Sisi added, saying that Egypt would struggle to find that cash while keeping its deficit under control.