Plans laid out for pan-Arab grid

17 March 2006

The GGC has long-term plans to interconnect with other Arab states to form a pan-Arab grid, according to Saleh Alawaji, deputy minister of electricity affairs at Saudi Arabia's Water & Electricity Ministry and chairman of the Dammam-based GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA). 'In five years from now, we will have most Arab countries linked with each other,' said Alawaji at the MEED Middle East Power & Desalination conference in Abu Dhabi on 13 March. 'If our [the GCC] long-term objective is to export energy, then this is the way forward.'

A feasibility study has been launched to review the possibility of an subsea link between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, while plans are also under consideration to link Kuwait with Iraq as well as Iran.

'We estimate the cost benefits of interconnection to be worth $10,000 million over a 20-year period against a cost outlay of $8,500 million,' said Alawaji. 'The sharing of fixed and spinning reserves can save up to 5,000 MW of installed capacity, and also bring other benefits such as the optimal use of energy sources, the promotion of related industries and the integration of manpower and training.'

The daily economic cycle across the Arab world works in favour of inte rconnection. Peak load hours in the GCC tend to be around 1pm- 5pm while those in Egypt and the Levant tend to be between 6pm-10pm.

Another long-term goal is for the Middle East to eventually export cheap energy to Europe via Turkey or via subsea cables from North Africa to Italy.

However, the age and capacity of some local networks as well as a lack of liquidity is some states may hinder these goals. 'The major obstacle [to pan-Arab interconnection] is the financing and lack of enhanced local networks in some countries,' said Alawaji.

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