Gulf electricity-sharing grid set for expansion

Sep 28, 2014 12:00 AM

A unified Gulf Arab electricity grid created to share capacity in emergencies is set for expansion by 2019 with an estimated investment of up to $420 million due to rising consumption, an official of the overseeing authority said on Sunday.

The grid has been working since 2009 with trading touching the equivalent of 800,000 MWh of energy annually, Ahmed Al Ebrahim, chief operating officer of the Dammam-based Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) said.

"In around five years in 2019 we will need to expand the grid as consumption is increasing around six to ten per cent a year," he told reporters.

"We have started initial studies for it and we hope to start the project soon. The study will be complete in around two years."

The cost of expansion could be about 20 or 30 percent of initial cost, he said. That works out at up to $420 million.

The current total capacity of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) grid is up to 1200 MW, the maximum power that can be transferred to any country at any time.

The grid was built at a cost of $1.4 billion shared by the six states based on the benefits they would accrue from it.

GCC member states -- Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman -- are all part of the grid.

Each state maintains a minimal reserve level in the grid to support one another in times of emergencies.

The usage has varied from state to state depending on their needs, but the biggest was when a state faced a deficit of 3000 MW, he said, declining to name the country.

"More than 1,100 emergency situations have been faced in the past five years in which there would have been power cuts if it weren't for the grid," said al-Ebrahim.

Electricity demand in the Gulf states peaks in the summer months of June-August, while there is surplus power during the rest of the year which can be exported outside the region.

The interconnection will also enable the six Gulf states to establish an energy trading market and in the long-term link with Europe, he said.

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