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Electricity

Introduction:

There are multiple advantages to be gained from interconnecting the electric power grids of several countries. The main benefit comes from deferring, or avoiding altogether, the construction of new power plants. This can be achieved by sharing power across interconnected grids without impacting their security and reliability. The interconnection also reduces the need for standby capacity to meet fluctuations in demand, which in turn reduces operating cost. It enables new generating plants to be constructed in the most economically attractive sites, typically close to the sources of inexpensive fuel. A further benefit is the lowering of the overall level of environmental pollution in the region.

Recognizing these benefits, the Arab countries established interconnection links between their respective electricity power grids, as far back as 1952. During that year, a tie line was erected between Algeria and Tunisia to alleviate cross border short term power shortages, and, in 1979, another tie line was established to link Morocco and Algeria for similar reasons. Despite suffering problems which limited the success of these projects, the experience and insight gained contributed to the spawning of other projects on a much larger scale that now encompasses the whole region.

Current Status of The Arab Electricity Grids Interconnection Projects:

These projects include the Eight Country Interconnection Project, the Maghreb Countries Interconnection Project and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Power Grid Interconnection Project. They are briefly described below:

The Eight Country Interconnection Project (named EIJLLPST):
This project involves interconnecting the electrical grids of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey. It started as a five-country interconnection project that included Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey, became a six-country project when Lebanon joined in, and later became an eight-country project when Libya and Palestine joined in.

The Egypt-Libya, 220kV link, rated at 170MW, became operational in 2008. The same year also witnessed the operation of the Egypt-Jordan link, rated at 300MW, using 500kV on the Egyptian side and 400kV on the Jordanian side. During 2001, the Syrian and Jordanian networks were interconnected on 400kV using a line rated at 300MW. The Syrian grid was then connected to the Lebanese grid, also on 400kV, during 2009, and the Palestinian grid was later connected to both the Egyptian and Jordanian grids through 66 kV transmission lines having limited capacity. The already completed interconnection between the Syrian and Turkish grids has not been energized due to the political situation in the region.

The Iraqi grid is currently linked with the Syrian and Turkish grids on 220 kV. Interconnecting the Iraqi grid with the Syrian and Turkish grids, on 400 kV, will be accomplished at a later date. There are ongoing efforts to connect the Iraqi grid with the Kuwaiti and Jordanian grids, also on 400 kV.

Figure (1)
Eight Country Grid Interconnection



The Maghreb Countries Interconnection Project:
This project involves connecting the Libyan grid to the Tunisian grid, using 220kV transmission lines, interconnecting the Tunisian grid with the Algerian grid, on 400kV, and interconnecting the Algerian grid to the Moroccan grid, using the same voltage.

All works and final tests to interconnect the electric grids of Libya and Tunisia were concluded in 2005. However, as a result of electrical issues related to oscillations in the combined network, the interconnection lines were re-opened in order to enable both countries to conduct further investigations. The two countries, together with the UCTE, are working on resolving this problem. One of the proposed solutions is to convert the Libya-Tunisia interconnection to direct current (d.c.) instead of alternating current (a.c.).

The Tunisia-Algeria interconnection, on 400kV, was energized in 2012, but still operates on 220 kV due to technical reasons. In addition to the existing 220kV interconnection between Algeria and Morocco, the two countries also completed a project to interconnect their grids using a 400kV network, rated at 900MW. This project was put in service in 2009.

Furthermore, Morocco is currently connected to Spain through two submarine cables, each rated at 700 MW. Up to the year 2016, these cables were mostly used to export energy from Spain to Morocco to satisfy part of the demand on the Moroccan grid and stabilize its network. However, in recent years, and as a result of Morocco’s heavy investment in renewable energy power plants (wind and solar), that have a low generation cost, the two cables are now mostly used to export energy from the Moroccan grid to the Spanish grid. Due to the heavy loading of the two cables, efforts are also underway to construct a third cable, thus raising the capacity of the interconnection to 2100 MW.

Figure (2)
The Maghreb Countries Interconnection


The GCC Power Grid Interconnection Project:
This project was implemented over three phases, as follows: Phase 1, which formed the northern section, linked the grids of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, and was completed in early 2009. Phase 2, which formed the southern section, linked the grids of the UAE and Oman. It was completed in 2012. Finally, in Phase 3, the northern and southern sections of the project were linked together. Phase 3 was completed in mid-2014 and the project has been operational since then.

Figure (3)
Gulf Cooperation (GCC) Power Grid Interconnection


The Arab Fund's Participation in Financing Inter-Arab Interconnection Projects:

Over the past twenty years, the total investment by the Arab countries in Inter- Arab Interconnection Projects has reached two billion US dollars; including US$ 556 million for the Eight Country Interconnection Project, US$ 1100 million for the GCC Power Grid Interconnection Project, US$ 169 million for the Maghreb Countries’ Interconnection Project and US$ 86 million for the interconnection of the two electricity grids in Yemen.

Cognizant of the role it should play in achieving Arab integration, the Arab Fund provided 12 grants, totaling around $ 6 million, to finance various feasibility studies for electrical interconnection projects among the Arab countries. These studies led to the identification and construction of 5 interconnection projects, whose total cost was about $ 616 million. Around 72% of that cost was covered through 9 loans provided by the Arab Fund. The Arab Fund also provided several loans amounting to $ 556 million to cover part of the cost of projects to connect the Egyptian and Saudi grids, the Syrian and Turkish grids, the Moroccan and Spanish grids, and the connection of the Mauritanian grid to the electrical grids in Mali and Senegal. Additionally, the Arab Fund provided 6 grants, totaling around 6 million, to finance studies aimed at improving the performance and utilization of the interconnected networks.

Figure (4) shows the construction of the Arab Fund towards the various Arab electrical interconnection projects that have entered into service, while Figure (5) shows its contribution towards the financing of the Egypt – Saudi interconnection grid. The Arab Fund also contributed US$ 86 million to finance projects aimed at strengthening the national grids in Syria, Morocco and Yemen, prior to interconnecting them to their neighboring country grids.

Figure (4)
The Arab Fund’s Loan Contributions to the Completed Inter-Arab Electrical Interconnection Projects

Figure (5)
The Arab Fund’s Loan Contributions to the Egypt – Saudi Interconnection Project

Additionally, the loans provided by the Arab Fund, for interconnection projects, were not limited to projects between two, or more, Arab countries, as the Arab Fund also contributed to the financing of three electrical interconnection projects that included non-Arab countries (Turkey, Spain, Mali and Senegal) by covering most of the cost of the portion of the project in the concerned Arab country . Below table shows these projects and the contribution of the Arab Fund to each.

Other Interconnection Projects

Project AFESD Loan
($Million)
Cost
($ Million)
Electrical Interconnection (Syria - Turkey) 86 96
Electrical Interconnection (Morocco - Spain) 80 206
Electrical Interconnection (Mauritania – Senegal – Mali) 240 900
Total

406

1,202

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