Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (Adwea) has approved the long-awaited Mirfa independent water and power project (IWPP).

Adwea has approved the plans for the 1,600MW IWPP and is expected to award the contract to the UK/French GDF Suez Energy International to develop the plant, according to sources close to the project in Abu Dhabi.

The Mirfa IWPP has faced numerous delays since Adwea launched the tender for the scheme in June 2012. MEED reported in June last year that the GDF Suez Energy International consortium was the frontrunner to win the deal to develop the IWPP, but the scheme slipped behind schedule, with Adwea having originally planned to sign all project agreements by early September last year.

The project was delayed after the Abu Dhabi Executive Council decided to seek further updates on the requirements of power from the scheme in mid-September. While there was no official or internal decision to delay the scheme, it has slipped behind schedule due to the ongoing discussions, and the initial target for the IWPP’s first power to come online in 2015 is no longer possible.

MEED recently reported that Japan’s Sojitz had dropped out of the GDF Suez Energy International-led consortium.

The IWPP will have a 52.5 million-gallon-a-day (g/d), reverse-osmosis (RO) desalination component. The developer is expected to take a 40 per cent stake in a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the IWPP, while Adwea will hold the remaining 60 per cent.

The Mirfa IWPP is a vital project for Abu Dhabi, with the emirate facing electricity shortages by 2016 due to increasing demand. Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Company’s (Adwec’s) peak demand from Adwea could reach 16,009MW by 2016, more than 2,000MW higher than the current installed capacity of 13,899MW. With only the 1,647MW of new capacity from the Shuweihat 3 IWPP nearing completion, it is important that the emirate pushes ahead with the Mirfa scheme as quickly as possible.

The first 1,400MW reactor at Abu Dhabi’s 5,600MW Baraka nuclear project is planned to come online in 2017, with the remaining reactors due to start up in 2018, 2019 and 2020. However, with no nuclear power scheme ever having been commissioned on time, it is likely the original timeline may not be met.