Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Saudi-Egyptian Electricity Grid project is close to being finalized, Governor of Saudi Arabia’s Electricity and Co-Generation Regulatory Authority (ECRA) Dr. Abdullah Al-Shehri said.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Shehri affirmed that ECRA is seeking to boost its activities by introducing international experts to help monitor some of its local operations.
“There are plans to separate distribution from the Saudi Electricity Company in the form of various companies, and to invite the private sector to promote competitiveness which improves quality,” Shehri said.
He added that ECRA would also welcome foreign investment if approved by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority.
Shehri affirmed that ECRA has made great progress in the domestic electricity linkage sector, adding that this is the authority’s main concern. An electricity grid between Riyadh and Jeddah is currently under construction and will be complete in 2017. This will be a high-voltage line, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, able to bear a load of 3,000 Megawatts.
The ECRA governor added that another linkage is planned between Medina and Tabuk, but this remains at the planning stage over viability concerns. This grid, if it goes ahead, would link central and northern parts of Saudi Arabia, and could also be used to serve the Saudi-Egyptian electricity grid project.
Construction of the necessary infrastructure for the joint Saudi–Egyptian electricity grid project was meant to begin in 2015 but has been delayed.
The project will allow both Saudi Arabia and Egypt to generate and share an additional 3,000 megawatts of electricity during the peak hours via a 12-mile (20-kilometer) underwater cable crossing the Gulf of Aqaba.
Egypt will transfer electricity to the Kingdom during the latter’s peak consumption times in the afternoon, with Saudi Arabia doing the same for Egypt during its peak consumption times in the evening.
The Saudi Electric Company is also planning a number of electricity projects over the next ten years amounting to more than 500 billion Saudi riyals, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced.
In its annual report for 2013, the Saudi Electric Company confirmed that it had a total of 7,142,816 customers in 12,644 cities, towns and villages across the Kingdom, accounting for 99 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population.
Saudi Arabia’s electricity generation capacity in 2013 amounted to 58,462 Megawatts, however the Saudi Electric Company aims to increase that by a further 20,000 Megawatts by 2018.
In comments in 2013 about electricity-sharing with Egypt, Shehri said: “Saudi Arabia is building a backbone . . .We expect in coming years there will be a strong connection with Egypt.”