Six-nation project comes closer toward linking up power grids

Jul 19, 2001 02:00 AM

Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq are coming closer toward linking up their power grids and creating a regional network by 2002 that will save up to $ 1.5 bn in combined energy costs. The six-nation project, commonly known as EIJLST (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey), will near completion after Iraq and Turkey link power networks by the end of 2002.
But the project will soon expand to include seven, eight or nine nations in two years time as more countries hook up to the grid, which will eventually link up with countries as far afield as the Gulf Cooperation Council, North Africa, Mediterranean region (MEDRING project) and the 15-nation European Union. Libya's imminent entry to the six-nation grid will set the stage for a regional grid with North African states Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
So far, Jordan, Syria and Egypt have finalized a three-way connection and Lebanon is expected to join the bandwagon in the fourth quarter of 2002, after the Lebanese government awards the project to an international bidder in August this year. These points of progress and other issues are buoying the project's six energy ministers, who are gathering in Beirut for EIJLST's eighth annual ministerial meeting.

The ministers, who are due to issue recommendations, reiterated their commitment to accelerate the pace of the project, which has been in the works since 1987. Energy and Water Minister Mohammed Abdel-Hamid Beydoun said that Lebanon will start its link-up to the grid through Syria as soon as it awards the $ 30 mm project being funded by the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. Syria and Lebanon are shortly expected to sign a bilateral agreement for the link-up.
Lebanon is already linked to Syria through two power lines, one in the North and another in eastern Lebanon, which provide the country with around 160 MW per year. "This Goliath project will have a significant impact on economic growth in Lebanon," said Beydoun during the ministerial meeting atthe Energy and Water Ministry. The six-way power grid is expected to help Lebanon save $ 250 mm which would have been spent on building new power-generation plants to meet Lebanon's increasing power demand.

Currently Lebanon produces around 1,200 MW a year, although the country's power-generation capacity is estimated at 1,700 MW a year. Due to frequent malfunctioning and ongoing renovation at Lebanon's seven power-generation plants, Lebanon cannot meet this capacity. Lebanon's power needs are estimated at 2,000 MW a year and energy consumption is set to increase by 4 to 6 % a year, according to the Energy Ministry's estimates.
For that reason, Lebanon is banking on buying 400 MW through the six-way grid. This grid will in the future link up with the six-nation GCC, which is yet to be interconnected, paving the way for joining the European Union's network either through Turkey-Greece and/or Morocco-Algeria-Spain.
Egyptian Energy Minister Ali Saidi said the six-nation grid will be boosted once the four-nation gas project signed last year by Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt is implemented by 2003. However Lebanon has started preparations for the gas linkup by receiving tenders for buying natural gas from Syria, which is going to be Lebanon's initial gas supplier to operate the country's two gas-powered stations in Beddawi and Zahrani. "The six-nation power grid is just a facet of regional cooperation, which has taken on other shapes, mainly through the gas project," Saidi said.

Egypt has already hooked up with Libya, which is set to become the seventh nation to join the six-nation power grid and will soon be followed by Morocco, Greece and Tunisia. Iraq so far has been unable to link-up to the grid due to the extensive infrastructure damage incurred during the Gulf War and the United Nations block on power projects, according to its energy minister. "The UN's 661 committee has frozen since 1996 contracts worth $ 1 bn, which were set to provide us with the necessary equipment and installations needed to upgrade our power grid," said Iraqi Energy Minister Subhan Faisal. "Only 15 % of these contracts approved by the oil-for-food program went through."
Turkey, a candidate for European Union membership, is likely to be the Arab world's link to the European Union and the northern Mediterranean region. "The most important aspect of our relations with the EU which might affect our common project has been improvement on the synchronous integration of the Turkish power system with the European Interconnected Network," said Turkish Energy Minister Zekic Cakan. "Turkey's interconnection with the European power system will substantially contribute to the creation of... the MEDRING project."

What the savings add up to:
Lebanon Jordan Syria Egypt Turkey Iraq Total Savings
MW 400 250 500 400 800 750 3,100
Savings $ mm 250 113 225 180 360 338 1,466

Schedule for six-nation grid:
Egypt-Jordan completed 1999
Jordan-Syria completed 2000
Jordan-Syria-Egypt completed 2001
Syria- Turkey expected end-2001
Lebanon- Syria expected end-2002
Syria-Iraq expected 2002
Iraq-Turkey expected.

Source: The Daily Star
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