To long-time observers of the fast-growing region, the new projections will have come as no great surprise. The main driver is people or more precisely the giant real estate developments seen right across the region built to house and service them which are driving energy demand growth at such a significant rate.

‘We expect Abu Dhabi electricity demand to double in 2008-13,’ Keith Miller, head of the planning and studies department at Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Company (ADWEC), told the MEED Power & Desalination conference in Abu Dhabi in mid-March. ‘To give you an idea of the scale of these schemes, just one of the mega projects planned, Raha Beach, will have the same population as the [emirate’s] entire western region.’

Kahramaa’s manager of corporate planning and business development, Yousef Janahi, had a similar message. ‘We expect energy demand to more than double to 6,000 MW by 2010,’ he told the MEED Major New Energy Project Opportunities in Qatar conference in February. ‘And the latest fast-track survey showed that demand could be significantly higher than this.’

According to the latest MEED forecast, more than $40,000 million will be required in the power generation sector in the Middle East over the coming four years alone, more than half of which will be injected into the Gulf. The amount of additional capacity needed by 2010 exceeds 65,000 MW, representing just under half the 150,000 MW of existing installed capacity. In the desalination sector, more than $120,000 million will be required over the next decade to double potable water capacity.

Much of the new capacity will be brought on line by the private sector. Acceptance of the private power model is growing. In the Gulf, only Dubai and Kuwait remain wedded to the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract formula. Elsewhere, privatisation is gathering pace. Bids were recently received for Amman’s first independent power project (IPP) at Almanakher, while Morocco and Algeria are also both committed to the build-own-operate (BOO) and build-operate-transfer (BOT) models for their power and desalination needs.

Clients and contractors alike are bracing themselves for hectic years ahead, and already the strains are showing. The sheer number of projects and the rapid pace of growth have compelled state-owned utilities to accelerate new build programmes, while contractors have had to adapt to greater risk and rising material prices.

One of the toughest tasks has fallen on Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), which has to contend with meeting annual power demand growth of up to 15 per cent in one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Two projects are out to tender among contractors the 800-MW Al-Aweer station expansion and the 2,000-MW Jebel Ali M plant. And by the end of the year, consultants will be invited to bid for the 2,500-MW co-generation P station, which will be built at Hassyan on the coast close to the Abu Dhabi border.

Hassyan is one of two sites, along with Lehbab on the Al-Aweer-Hatta road, which have been identified by DEWA as being able to accommodate a massive 14,000 MW and 600 million gallons a day (g/d) of new capacity. To put it into context, this is just slightly lower than the current installed power and desalination capacity for the whole of the UAE. Similar situations are faced in Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia, where the government has to