Regional power link-up makes sense

02 May 2008
A grid link with Egypt will allow not only Saudi Arabia but also the rest of the GCC to draw on electricity from its western neighbours.

As a concept, the GCC electricity grid is very attractive. All member states would find it helpful if they could rely on each other to cover short-term spikes in demand or unplanned closures of their power plants.

The ability to share electricity across a grid would also mean that each country would no longer have to keep expanding its own generating capacity to cover all eventualities. It would also lower its operating costs.

But theory and reality are different. With little or no power generating capacity to spare, GCC members states will have to wait for some time before the grid can deliver these benefits.

There is a second problem. An interconnected grid should allow two member states to trade power when demand is high in one and low in the other. But in terms of time difference, only one hour separates Jeddah in the east from Muscat in the west. This means that demand for power peaks at more or less the same time across the GCC.

For these reasons, a planned interconnection between Saudi Arabia and Egypt makes a lot of sense. With plans to establish links to Iran stalling, the GCC grid can only grow westwards.

The link with Egypt will allow not only Saudi Arabia but also the rest of the GCC to draw on resources from Egypt and, ultimately, its other neighbours.

It is only a matter of time before the door to the rest of the North African system and the European grid is opened, although Tunisia and Libya will need to complete their interconnection first. Algiers is three hours behind Muscat and, as a result, its demand for power peaks far earlier each day.

The new economies of the Gulf can still benefit from links to the old powers of the Middle East.

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