Work is set to start soon on the $1.8 billion electricity interconnection project between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and excavations for the bases of the electricity pylons that the project will use is due to begin in December in both countries, according to news reports.
The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) signed an agreement in October 2021 awarding contracts for the Saudi-Egyptian electricity interconnection project that will allow the two countries to exchange up to 3,000 MW of power.≠≠
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this is the first large-scale high-voltage direct current (HVDC) interconnection link in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
It will carry power along a 1,350 km route (839 miles) using overhead power lines and a subsea cable across the Red Sea and includes the construction of three AC/DC conversion substations in Badr City in Egypt, and Madinah and Tabuk in Saudi Arabia.
The substations are linked though 1,350 km of aerial power lines and 22 km of submarine cables at the Gulf of Aqaba, a press release by the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity said in October 2021.
“Linking the electrical grids of the two countries and hence the interconnected grids of the Arabian Gulf with those of North Africa will support grid resilience and decarbonisation objectives, as a large part of the exchanged electricity in the future will likely be from renewable sources,” the IEA said on its website.
“Current electricity production in Egypt is sufficient and covers the needs of our domestic consumption and the consumption of the electrical interconnection networks of neighbouring countries,” Ayman Hamza, official spokesman of the Ministry of Electricity, confirmed to Al-Ahram Weekly.
Hamza said that the conservation of the use of natural gas for electricity production would not lead to a reduction in the amount of power generated. In August, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said that Egypt was seeking an average of 15 per cent savings in the natural gas used to generate electricity nationwide, with the saved gas to be redirected for export and thus bringing in more foreign currency.
According to Hamza, more than 60 per cent of Egypt’s production of natural gas goes to its power stations. According to Madbouli, saving 15 per cent of this consumption and redirecting it for export will bring in approximately $450 million per month.
Coordination is also taking place between Sudan and Egypt to increase the capacity of the electrical interconnection line between the two countries from 80 to 300 MW. Egypt has recently supplied electrical supplies to the Sudanese side so that these can be added to the electrical network of Sudan, the Ministry of Electricity announced.
Studies are also being prepared to increase the interconnection capacities between Egypt and Jordan from 450 to 1,100 MW, while continuing to feed the Libyan electricity network through the interconnection line between Egypt and Libya and even considering increasing its current capacity of 250 MW.
Connections with Europe are also in the works. Some 3.6 billion euros will be invested in an electrical wiring interconnection system (EWIS) to export clean energy between Egypt and Europe via Greece.
“Approximately one third will be consumed in Greece, mainly by Greek industries, another third will be exported to neighbouring European countries, and the remaining third will be used for the production of green hydrogen,” said John Kardys, CEO of the Copelouzos Group, which is undertaking the management of the project.
The majority of the green hydrogen produced will also be exported to neighbouring European countries, according to Euronews.
Europe faces energy deficit challenges due to the war in Ukraine, while at the same time it is interested in obtaining electrical energy from renewable sources, Mohamed Al-Sobki, former executive manager of the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency (EgyptERA), explained.
Simultaneously, Egypt is intent on increasing the share of renewable energy in its energy mix to reach 42 per cent by 2035, according to its own energy strategy, he said. The possibility of Egypt’s exporting excess energy to Europe was a chance that the country must grab, he added.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 December, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.