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Saudi, Egypt power grid moves forward

Sep 18 , 2007 - ArabianBusiness.com

The electrical interconnectivity project of the Saudi and Egyptian grids, the region's largest in terms of capacity and expansion, took a step closer this week after the Egyptian minister of electricity and energy reiterated the positive feasibility of technical studies for the project.

Hassan Yunis said in a statement on Saturday that the report submitted by the chairman of Egyptian Electricity Holding Company, following his participation in a committee of electricity experts held in Saudi Arabia, stressed the importance of the implementation of the project, state news agency SPA reported.

The chairman noted that there is considerable interest from both countries to speed implementation of the project, quoted SPA.

Yunis will meet his Saudi counterpart during his next visit to the kingdom to discuss the final reports, the implementation steps, and the financing of the project.

Yunis said that the importance of the project comes from the fact that electricity networks in Egypt and Saudi Arabia represent more than 85% of the electricity capacity in the Arab nations and serve all Arab networks.

The minister stressed that the link is the nucleus of comprehensive Arab electricity linkage where the first phase is being implemented by linking the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and neighbouring countries.

According to the GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA), the first phase of the $7 billion GCC power grid would be completed by the end of next year and it is expected to go into operation in the first quarter of 2009.

More than 30% of the construction in the $1.1 billion first phase, which will link Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar through 800 kilometres of transmission lines, was completed at the end of June.

Last September, Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a contract to study the possibility of connecting their electrical grids. The Egypt's energy minister estimated back then that the study would cost $2.6 million.

The connectivity of Arab countries would be part of a much larger effort by the EU, Mediterranean countries, and Middle Eastern nations to allow the trading of electricity across the region, 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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