Becoming an electrical and energy hub: Power connections

Ahmed Kotb , Saturday 16 Oct 2021

Egypt is well on the way towards becoming an electrical and energy hub for the wider Mediterranean region.

Power connections
Power connections

The Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) and the Saudi Electricity Company signed contracts last week for the implementation of an electrical interconnection project between the two countries.

The project is scheduled to start operations by 2024 and has a total capacity of 3,000 Megawatts (MW), with surplus electrical power to be exchanged between the two countries during peak times, which are different for each.

Peak electricity consumption in Egypt is at night but is during the day in Saudi Arabia.

The electrical interconnection project will link the national grids of the two countries from Badr City in Egypt to Medina and Tabuk in Saudi Arabia via a transmission line stretching over 1,300 km and marine cables in the Gulf of Aqaba to a length of 22 km.

The first phase of the project is expected to be operational in late 2024 with a capacity of 1,500 MW. It is scheduled to be operational within about 36 months of the signing and to be completed after 52 months at a total cost of $1.8 billion.

The project consists of three high-voltage substations, East Medina Station and Tabuk Station in Saudi Arabia and Badr Station in eastern Cairo, Sabah Mashali, managing director of the EETC, said. The stations are connected by overhead transmission lines to a length of about 1,350 metres and marine cables in the Gulf of Aqaba to a length of 22 km.

“The project, when operational, will achieve a number of benefits for the two countries, including enhancing the reliability of the national electrical grids, supporting their stability, and benefiting from the excess capacity of electricity generation available in the two countries, as well as timing differences in their peak electrical loads,” Mashali pointed out.

The line between Egypt and Saudi Arabia provides the possibility of selling energy to the Gulf countries in the future. The two countries signed an initial memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the project in June 2013.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia have the largest electricity generation networks in the Arab world, with a total capacity of 150,000 MW representing 38 per cent of the total capacity of all the Arab countries.

Mashali said that the signing of the contracts for the project between Egypt and Saudi Arabia represents a strong link between the two largest electricity networks in the region and will reflect the stability and increase the reliability of electrical supply between the two countries, in addition to the other economic and developmental returns.

Mohamed Shaker, Egypt’s minister of electricity and renewable energy, stressed the importance of electrical interconnections with neighbouring countries, referring to the existing links with Jordan, Libya and Sudan.

He added that the government has allocated about LE77 billion to the electricity sector until 2024, saying that Egypt is looking to increase its links with other Arab, African and European countries. He said that Egypt’s vision is to turn the country into a regional hub for electricity connections with other countries regionally and internationally.

Shaker said that Egypt is an active participant in regional electricity network projects, especially with neighbouring countries, and that Cairo has signed a cooperative agreement with the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organisation (GEIDCO) covering a number of fields, mainly electrical interconnections.

Egypt’s power link with Jordan has a capacity of 450 MW, and its link with Libya is 200 MW. Shaker confirmed that there are plans to raise the capacity of the link with Libya to approximately 2,000 or 3,000 MW, adding that the existing line between Egypt and Libya currently has a total capacity of 240 MW.

In April, the EETC turned on the electrical current in the interconnection line with Sudan to a capacity of 70 MW in the first phase out of a total of 300 MW to be reached in the future. The cost of the first phase is $6.8 million.

Work is currently underway to increase the transferred capacity between the two countries, Egypt and Sudan, from the current capacity of 80 MW to 300 MW. The completion of the final steps of projects linking Egypt with Saudi Arabia, in addition to with Cyprus and Greece, are also near, such that Egypt becomes a regional hub for energy exchange with Europe and the Arab and African countries.

Shaker announced that an electrical interconnection project between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece will be signed during the next few days, with Egypt planning to export up to 3,000 MW of electricity to Cyprus and Greece.

Egypt signed in May 2019 a MoU on electrical interconnection between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece via the island of Crete.

Egypt’s electricity sector has been diversifying its sources in recent years, with a special interest in renewable energies through ambitious plans to increase the latter’s proportion of the energy mix to 20 per cent by 2022 and 42 per cent by 2035.

Egypt’s Dabaa Nuclear power plant is expected to start operations in 2026 with a total capacity of 4,800 MW.

The country’s electricity grid had a total capacity of about 59,063 MW at the end of 2020, compared to approximately 35,000 MW in 2015. Until 2014,

Egypt experienced frequent power cuts that began to end in 2015 when several new power stations started operations and some existing ones were upgraded.

The Egyptian Electricity Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency announced earlier that peak electricity consumption in Egypt had reached a record high of about 32,000 MW nationwide in the summer months.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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