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Wed 5 Dec 2007 04:38 PM

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GCC-wide power grid on track

Phase one of GCC plan to link states' electrical grids will be finished by end of 2008, Saudi minister says.

The first phase of the GCC’s plan to link member states’ electrical grids will be finished by the end of next year as scheduled, the Saudi minister of water and electricity said on Tuesday.

The $1.6 billion project is being carried out in three phases, with the entire grid system connecting the six Gulf Arab states set to be completed by 2010.

Abdullah Al-Hussayen said phase one of the project, called the North Grid, will be commissioned on December 24, quoted Saudi Arabic daily Okaz.

Phase one will link the grids of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.

The second phase will connect the UAE and Oman to create the South Grid, and the North and South grids will be connected in the phase three.

The GCC has been devised to help countries in the region struggling with power supply and demand meet growing energy needs resulting from booming economies and populations.

Through the project, all involved countries will have an identical supply, eliminating the need for the construction of separate power plants, according to a recent report the GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA), which manages the project.

Al-Hussayen said the grid will eliminate the need for keeping additional backup installed capacity idle, which may reach 15% of the entire installed capacity of the country, according to the newspaper.

Al-Hussayen said the grid will also bring down peak-load demand by sharing loads between countries during periods of high usage.

Saudi Arabia is also embarking on grid-connectivity projects with Egypt and Yeman. Once the Saudi-Egyptian grid is completed, a pan-Arab grid is planned to link the GCC countries through Saudi with other Arab nations.

The connectivity of Arab countries is part of a much larger effort by the EU and Middle Eastern to allow the trading of electricity across the two regions, and it would bring GCC countries in line to join the world’s largest electrical interconnection scheme, the Mediterranean Ring Project.

Currently, North African countries are connected to Jordan, Syria and Turkey through Egypt. Morocco has been connected to Europe through Spain since 1997. Plans are also being discussed to connect Egypt to sub-Saharan African countries through the Nile Basin Initiative.

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