The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council has approved a funding plan for the much-talked-about GCC power grid project, which is estimated to cost US$6bn.
“GCC electricity ministers approved the special mechanism for funding the project,” Kuwaiti energy minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahd Al-Sabah says, adding that the project would be implemented “very soon.”
The first phase, which involves linking the grids of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, will cost $2.25bn and is in the prequalification stage. Saudi Arabia will contribute about 40% of the first phase cost, Kuwait 36.5%, Qatar 13.5% and Bahrain about 10%. The Dammam-based Gulf Electricity Link Authority (GELA) will oversee implementation.
The second phase involves linking the grids of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The resulting two mega-grids will be joined in the final phase. The project will improve performance and reliability of the power network in the Gulf countries. Once it is in place, one Gulf country can import or export electricity from the other depending on the peak load timings in each country. If there is a power failure in one country, electricity generated in another can be utilised by using network controls.
The GCC states began discussing the project some 20 years ago to integrate their transmission systems, make better use of their power-generating capacity and contribute to the development of the GCC common market.
The first study on the project was carried out in 1986 by Hydro-Quebec International and SNC-Lavalin of Canada, Saudi Consulting Services of Riyadh and the Gulf International Bank, Bahrain. It was updated in 1990-92.
But the plan was not given a kickstart until the establishment of GELA in 2001. According to Mohammed Al-Zarah, chief executive of the authority, the project would be implemented in three phases between 2004 and 2010.
The huge project, once implemented, will save the GCC states billions of dollars, as it will reduce the cost of generating power. Studies have shown that the cost of linking the GCC power grids will be lower than the setting up of several new power generation plants in the Gulf region. The power grid will ensure regular power supply to thousands of industrial units operating in the Gulf countries, thus helping to boost their productivity substantially.
Under the first phase, a 422km overhead line will link Kuwait’s Al-Zour substation to Saudi Arabia’s Ghunan power station near Dammam. There, a substation will convert the current to 380 KV as used on the Saudi network.
From Ghunan, a 90km, 220kV line will take the current to Al-Jasra substation in Bahrain. Also from Ghunan, another 290km, 400kV overhead line will carry the power to Salwa power station in Qatar, which will be connected by a further 100km, 220kV overhead line
to Ras Abu Fontas A and B power stations.