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NEWS/ Middle East Update

First phase of GCC power grid complete

The first phase of a joint power grid for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries was completed with the linking of the grids of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. The United Arab Emirates and Oman will link to the grid in 2011,

The six GCC countries, who gave the go-ahead for the power grid in 2004, hope the $1.4 billion venture will help meet rising power demand and avoid power outages.

Various stages of the linking operation included the completion of the interconnection of the Qatar grid with Kuwait on 20 July and the commissioning of the first cycle of undersea cable between Bahrain and the main grid on 21 July.

The resulting two mega-grids will be joined together in the final phase.

The formal inauguration of the GCC grid is scheduled for December when the 30th session of the Supreme Council of the GCC meets in Kuwait.

€400bn plan to bring solar power from North Africa

Twelve European companies including ABB and Siemens have launched a €400bn ($560bn) initiative to build huge solar farms in Africa and the Middle East to produce energy for Europe. The consortium says the massive proposal could provide up to 15 per cent of Europe’s electricity needs by 2050.

ABB, Siemens, E.ON and RWE, plus financial institutions Deutsche Bank and Munich Re are among the companies which signed a protocol in Munich in mid-July. The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) would build solar power generators from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, and pump electricity to Europe via undersea cables, as well as providing a substantial portion of the power and water needs of the producer countries.

Under the protocol, a Desertec study office will have three years to elaborate plans to create the network of solar farms and transmission networks and find the funds.

Funding secured for Bahrain’s Al Dur IWPP

Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC) and France’s GDF Suez have announced the completion of a required $1.6bn interim funding package for the Al Dur independent water and power project (IWPP) in Bahrain.

The $2.1bn Al Dur IWPP is the Kingdom’s third privately developed project and will have a capacity of 1240 MW and 218 00 m3 of water per day.

The project was awarded to GDF Suez by the Bahrain Ministry of Finance on 28 August last year following an international tendering process.

GIC and GDF Suez have equally-funded project work, which is now almost 30 per cent complete.

First Energy Bank profit

Bahrain-based First Energy Bank, the world’s first Islamic investment bank focused exclusively on the energy sector, has announced a profit of $5.6m for the first half of 2009. The bank reported a gross income of $16.6m, which included $9.4m earned on short- and long-term tranactions, $5.8m on advisory services provided to local banks and $1.4m earned on available-for-sale investments.

The new organization’s asset base remains liquid at $1.1bn said a statement.

Syria sweats over electricity shortage

Syrians are facing a major shortfall in electricity supplies, which is forecast to get worse rather than better over the next few years.

The government aims to double electiricty production capacity by 2015, but at the moment the country has about 1000 MW less capacity than it needs, and this deficit is projected to expand to 1800 MW by 2012.

High demand for electricity because of hot weather since mid-July has meant Syrians have had to put up with power cuts lasting several hours a day.

The official explanation for the shortfall is “increased demand” because of the country’s high birth rate coupled with unpunished fraud.

At the moment Syria has been buying electricty from Turkey.

Mass Global wins Kurdistan power plant contract

A contract worth $480m to build a 500 MW power plant in the Dohuk Province in Iraqi Kurdistan has been won by local firm Mass Global Investment Company, reports MEED.

The company has already completed work on Iraq’s first independent power project (IPP), a 500 MW gas fired plant in Erbil Province, using four 125 MW gas turbines, supplied by the USA’s GE Energy.

Mass Global will build, own and operate the new plant using gas from Kurdistan’s Khor Mor field. Power produced from both of these IPPs will then be sold on to the Kurdish Regional Government.

Major stake in Israeli solar energy firms

Siemens is reported to be interested in acquiring a stake in Solel Solar Systems and also a 20 per cent interest in Israel’s Arava Power Company, at a cost of several tens of millions of dollars.

Arava Power is one Israel’s top three photovoltaic solar power integrators and industry sources believe that the talks are at an early stage.

Siemens interest in such a partnership stems from a need to supply equipment for its planned solar power fields, as well as the financial investment.

Solel Solar develops and manufactures thermosolar panels and technology, however Arava Power is planning to build solar power projects.

The estimated investment in the company is $2.5 billion. Arava Power has the largest amount of land available for solar power farms and has been the target of several foreign solar energy companies including AES Corporation and SunEdison.

Larsen & Toubro bag Omani order

A competitive bidding process has resulted in the award of a contract for a new substation in the Misfah area of Oman going to Larsen & Toubro, reports MEED.

The Oman Electricity Transmission Company (OETC) awarded the contract. Larsen & Toubro’s bid of RO4.64m ($12.1m) for the project proved the lowest.

Under the contract, Larsen & Toubro will build a 132/33 kV substation and associated transmission lines

OETC, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Electricity Holding Company SAOC, is a monopoly provider of power transmission services to the Main Interconnected System in the north of Oman.

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