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Tue 6 Mar 2012 05:33 PM

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Politics puts KSA, Turkey grid plan on hold

Plans to link electricity grids put on hold until political situation cools

Politics puts KSA, Turkey grid plan on hold
A memorandum of understanding was signed in the past few months.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are looking to link their electricity grids, but the project will be on hold until the political situation in the region stabilises, the head of Saudi electricity regulator said on Tuesday.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in the past few months between the two countries but plans will not move ahead unless the political situation in Syria and Iraq becomes clearer, Abdullah al-Shehri, governor of the Electricity and Co-Generation Regulatory Authority said on the sidelines of MEED's Arabian Power and Water Summit in Abu Dhabi.

"The situation in Syria and Iraq until now is not clear so the idea is on hold," al-Shehri said, adding any grid linking Saudi Arabia and Turkey would have to go through either Iraq or Syria.

The United Nations says more than 7,500 civilians have died in Syria's crackdown on protests against President Bashar Assad during an uprising inspired by revolts that have topped four Arab autocrats in the past 12 months.

While Iraq is much safer than a few years ago, it still has not reached the point where most of the country is considered safe enough for international investors to visit without special security measures, which is holding its economy back.

February was on course to be one of the most peaceful months in Iraq since the invasion, until the attacks on February 23 on mostly Shi'ite targets.

"The feasibility study has still not been conducted but it is clear that there will be benefits. You just have to quantify it," he said.

Saudi Arabia has had plans to link its power grid to Egypt for some time to help meet peak-time demand in the two countries.

According to the project, Egypt would send Saudi Arabia electricity in the afternoons and Saudi Arabia would send electricity to Egypt in the evenings, to take advantage of the difference of the two countries' peak-use hours.

"The feasibility study for that project has been finalised and I think now they are in the process of doing the legal work for it," al-Shehri said.

The top oil exporter's state utility Saudi Electricity is investing US$80bn in the 10 years to 2018 to boost capacity to at least 80,000 megawatts by 2020, from an installed capacity of 50,000 megawatts now, to meet booming demand.

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