The submission of bids for the Mirfa independent water and power project (IWPP) in Abu Dhabi, shows the emirate is serious about boosting power and desalination capacity.

Abu Dhabi has been a pioneer in the Gulf’s power and desalination sector, having overseen the region’s most successful power privatisation and also launched the GCC’s first nuclear energy programme and largest solar projects.

Since 2008, Abu Dhabi has recorded annual peak demand growth of more than 10 per cent and it reached 13.9 per cent in 2011. The drive for new capacity is due largely to the need to meet the growing demand for power and water in the northern emirates.

In 2008, peak power exports from Abu Dhabi to the northern emirates reached 785MW; this increased to 909MW in 2009. Exports jumped dramatically in 2011, when supplies to the northern emirates reached 1,198MW. Peak exports are expected to more than double to 2,500MW in 2013. Similarly, in the water sector, exports to the northern emirates will more than double to reach 400,000 cubic metres a day in 2015.

In addition to meeting the demand for the northern emirates, Abu Dhabi will require increased electricity for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) as the state oil firm aims to boost production over the next five years. The demand from Adnoc for power is expected to rise fourfold by 2015.

Delivery of the Mirfa scheme should not be a problem for Abu Dhabi, with it attracting investment of more than $18bn from the private sector for power schemes and the majority of its desalination projects through private investment or combined with power through IWPPs.

If Abu Dhabi continues to press ahead with its plans it will remain one of the Gulf’s key markets for the next 10 years.