Despite experiencing some of the highest growth rates in electricity and water consumption in the region over the past 10 years, Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa) has not only managed to ensure demand has been met, but has also built up one of the biggest reserve margins in the GCC.

Even though power demand growth has regularly exceeded 10 per cent over the past five years, Qatar’s installed capacity of 8,761MW was comfortably able to deal with the peak usage of 6,255MW recorded in 2012.

“[There was no] plan to have extra or surplus capacity, but when we started expanding [the network], there were a lot of industrial projects planned that were delayed during the recession, mainly due to foreign investors. This caused the surplus in generation,” says Kahramaa’s technical director, Ahmed al-Naser, speaking exclusively to MEED.

Selling surplus

The reserve cushion has enabled Qatar to sell electricity to neighbouring countries such as Bahrain, which has struggled to meet rising domestic demand. “This surplus has allowed us to exchange electricity on a commercial basis between Qatar and other GCC countries, so it has helped [the country],” says Al-Naser.

However, although it currently has a healthy reserve margin, Kahramaa is aware that with demand continuing to grow rapidly for electricity and water, it must prepare for the future.

“Current indications in our strategic and technical planning show that in the next five years, there will be a need for additional capacity – with huge schemes planned everywhere – particularly in preparation for the [Fifa 2022] World Cup,” says Al-Naser. “For the past three years, many of the projects were in the planning stage, but now we are seeing them start, including port and metro schemes and many others.”

Kahramaa is expecting demand for electricity to continue to grow by 10-12 per cent a year over the next five years and, as a result, is pushing ahead with several major projects. “We are planning to increase generation capacity by 2,000MW and water capacity by about 110 million gallons a day [g/d],” says Al-Naser. 

Qatar’s next planned independent water and power plant (IWPP) is known as Facility D and will be located at the Qatar Economic Zone near Doha. It is expected to have a power generation capacity of 2,400MW and a desalination capacity of 130 million g/d. The desalination component will partly use reverse osmosis (RO) technology; it will be the first time the country has employed it on a large-scale scheme.

Kahramaa has prequalified six developers to bid for the IWPP, the first to be tendered since 2008, and has invited them to submit bids by 6 February 2014. “The project will be awarded next year, with first power planned for the last quarter of 2016,” says Al-Naser. 

Qatar was one of the first countries in the region to begin using private developer models to build large-scale power and desalination schemes, and Al-Naser believes this has been a key factor behind the success in meeting demand during periods of rapid growth.

“Since Kahramaa took the decision [to use private developers], we have never faced any shortage of power, whereas other countries with similar funding abilities have faced shortages at certain times,” he says.

“By adopting the [independent power project] model, we take knowledge and other benefits from the market. The private sector has the know-how and better technology, and we can get the best technical and economic solutions.”

Kahramaa is also planning to develop an independent water project (IWP) at Ras Laffan Industrial City, the huge development owned by state oil major Qatar Petroleum. The IWP is designed to have a desalination capacity of 45 million g/d and will also use RO technology. Kahramaa has received prequalification entries and is planning to tender the scheme by the end of 2013.

Water security

While the utility provider’s primary focus has been on building new capacity in the power and water sectors since its creation in 2000, it is now turning to address the equally important issue of water security.

“Qatar has some of the smallest [water reserves] in the world,” says Al-Naser. “Security of water is one of the biggest priorities for the government; to have water supply and storage capacity is important.”

In an effort to ensure water security, Kahramaa is undertaking an ambitious $3bn Water Security Mega Reservoirs project. The scheme has been designed to provide seven days of strategic water storage within its network, which will shore up the country’s reserve supplies and protect against any future disruptions in provision.

“The reservoirs project is one of the largest in the world in terms of the size of reservoirs and will increase the capacity of water storage [in Qatar] by 10 times,” says Al-Naser. “So the storage capacity will be about 3,500 million gallons.”

Kahramaa is in the process of awarding the enabling works packages for the scheme and has invited bids for some of the pipeline packages. The concept design for the reservoirs project was completed in early 2011 by French project manager Sogreah, now part of the Artelia Group. In February 2012, Kahramaa appointed the UK’s Hyder Consulting to provide engineering and environmental consultancy services for the scheme.

In addition to increasing water storage, Kahramaa is undertaking a project to study the country’s natural groundwater reserves.

“We have another strategic water scheme, which is a study of the natural underground aquifer,” says Al-Naser. “We have appointed a consultant to [conduct a] pilot study into the natural storage available. If it is successful, we will inject water to increase exhausted natural reserves, because there was previously misuse from agriculture.” 

Renewable energy

Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and, as a result, is not under the same pressure as other countries in the region to look at alternative forms of energy to fuel its power production. Nonetheless, Al-Naser says Kahramaa is keen to ensure it is not left behind in the search for cleaner forms of energy.

“In the past, solar energy was expensive, with high technology costs, but we believe that with the current developments in the market, prices have come down,” says Al-Naser. “For that reason, we have decided to have our own facilities to utilise solar energy.” 

He says Qatar is aiming to generate 200MW of solar power by 2020, which will equate to about 2 per cent of total installed capacity. In July 2012, Kahramaa signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) to distribute solar power. QSTec is a joint venture of state-run Qatar Solar, Germany’s SolarWorld and Qatar Development Bank.

QSTec’s first project will be to build a polysilicon plant at Ras Laffan, which will make the key ingredient for photovoltaic solar schemes. The $1bn facility will initially produce 8,000 tonnes a year (t/y) of polysilicon, with plans to eventually boost output to more than 45,000 t/y.

Diversification focus

“It is still a bit expensive, but from a strategic viewpoint we need to diversify; we don’t want to rely on one source of energy production,” says Al-Naser. “We would like to build our own knowledge and capacity, so when the technology reaches a commercial and economical level to provide competition with gas, we will be ready and have the know-how.”

With the award of more than $8bn of construction contracts on the Doha Metro this year, Qatar’s World Cup construction programme is officially under way. While the challenge is daunting, Al-Naser is confident Kahramaa’s infrastructure is up to the task. “We have a very strong network everywhere in Qatar,” he says. “So any new development or project will find a nearby connection for electricity and water.”

Key fact

Power demand in Qatar is expected to keep growing by 10-12 per cent a year for the next five years

Source: Kahramaa