GCC power grid will be commissioned in May


Works Minister and Minister in charge of the Electricity and Water Authority Fahmi Al Jowder said the commissioning of the grid, linking Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the first phase, would provide many operational, economic, environmental and technological benefits to the countries of the region.

"This would also mean setting up more power plants with more and more emphasis on generating power from unconventional fuels and renewable sources, signalling an end for ever on power shortages and building a huge power bank for future use."

The minister was speaking as he opened POWER-GEN Middle East 2009 at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.

The event, which concludes tomorrow, is being held under the patronage of Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and is organised by PennWell Corporation..

"As is envisaged now, the grid, when it becomes fully operational towards the end of next year, will also considerably reduce the cost of power generation, thus reducing also the cost to consumers."

He said once the grid is ready, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will each receive an extra 1200 MW of power capacity, the UAE will receive 900 MW, Qatar 750 MW, Bahrain 600 MW and Oman 450 MW.

He said the most important feature of the project is the use of a submarine cable connecting Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.

"Although costlier to install, it has been found necessary due to Bahrain being an island and lacking land access to connect it through overhead lines."

He said the installation of the submarine cable represents nearly one-third of the total cost of the interconnection project.

"The GCC countries are seriously looking at alternative power generation sources and nuclear power tops that list," he said.

International Energy Agency representative to the event Bertrand Magne, in his keynote address, warned of short-term financial difficulties leading to longer-term problems.

"The current financial crisis may be sowing the seeds of an energy investment crisis and with this will come an increase in energy prices," he said.

"While on the one hand, the massive development in power generation is envisaged to lead to falling prices and more reliable sources of power, on the other, the financial crunch could lead to a "spending crisis" when people would be wary of spending on projects that are not needed in the immediate future."

PennWell director of events Glenn Ensor said the highlight of the conference will be a special plenary session that will bring together industry experts to take a look at the last decade of power and water privatisation in the region and draw out lessons for the future.

"The panel will consist of representatives from regional utilities, a developer, regulator and consultant."

EWA chief executive Dr Abdulmajeed Al Awadhi said the event is extremely important for Bahrain.

"This is an opportunity for those in Bahrain to meet up with global experts in the field and also an occasion for industry professionals to meet up and discuss developments."

He said it is also significant that the focus this year will be on renewable energy and leaders across the region will discuss the development of a peaceful nuclear industry in the GCC.


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