This and other agreements will complete the formalities, ahead of the opening of the grid’s first phase in early 2009. The entire project will be completed in 2010.

“Without the signing of the member states of the agreement, we don’t have a connection, We expect the signing will come soon,” said Hasan al-Asaad, head of corporate affairs at the GCC Interconnection Authority, at MEED’s Middle East Power & Water conference in Abu Dhabi on 17 March.

Al-Asaad said that the entire project is 55 per cent complete. “Most of the transmission towers have now been constructed,” he said.

Al-Asaad added that the Interconnection Authority’s board will act as a temporary regulatory body until a regulatory advisory committee (RAC) is set up later in 2008. “The RAC will act as a regulator until a regional energy regulator is formulated by member states,” he said.

The Interconnection Authority’s remit has been redefined to allow it to make a profit. He said that once the grid is completed, the authority aims to act as a facilitator to promote power trade among GCC states.

“With the construction of the interconnection grid, and the development of the legal agreements, the GCC can become a major player in cross-border power markets,” said Al-Asaad. “It will pave the way towards proper electricity trade between the GCC and other Middle East countries and it will give us access to European electrical systems. As the backbone of the GCC grid, it will be a fundamental step paving the way for a regional GCC electrical energy market.”

“It will promote regional trade and encourage the private sector to participate in independent power projects in the GCC,” he added. “The [Interconnection Authority] is now part of the Arab League electrical committee looking into the pan-Arab grid and the Mediterranean ring grid. There are opportunities to exchange power on a seasonal basis with these other countries.”