GCC agency plans to link region's electric grid with Ethiopia’s hydropower plant

GCC agency plans to link region's electric grid with Ethiopia’s hydropower plant
Published: 1 October 2018 - 7:47 a.m.
By: Baset Asaba

As demand for electric power in the Arabian Gulf continues to rise at a high rate, a plan is being considered to link the GCC’s electric grid with Ethiopia’s hydropower plant, currently under construction.

The Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Agency (GCCIA) is studying the feasibility of a cable – which would pass through currently warn-torn Yemen – as part of efforts to reduce reliance on oil and gas for power generation.

GCCIA chief executive Ahmed Ali Al-Ebrahim was quoted by Climate Home News saying that Connections with Africa and Europe, as well as homegrown renewable energy projects, will help to save petroleum for export.

“We are rich in energy, we are dependent on fossil fuels, on gas and oil in the GCC countries,” he said. “But we cannot continue to rely on oil and gas for our energy production because it is also one of our main income sources.

“There is a general approach to diversify our power resources. That is why we are looking at renewable energy, nuclear energy and even hydropower in this case.”

A delegation from Saudi Arabia visited the construction site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in 2016. In May, Ethiopia’s new prime minister Abiy Ahmed made Riyadh his first calling point after African neighbours Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti, reported Climate Home News.

With a capacity of 6.45 gigawatts, Ethiopia’s mega-project is set to be the largest hydropower dam in Africa. Building could be completed as soon as 2019. The reservoir will take another 5-15 years to fill.

The cable being explored would pass under the Red Sea and through Yemen to connect the resource to Saudi Arabia, said Al-Ebrahim.

The feasibility assessment will take around two years, he added. The GCCIA is also considering electricity interconnectors with Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and through them Turkey and Cyprus or Greece.

Ethiopia’s hydropower is attractive because it could balance intermittent generation from solar plants and stabilise the grid, Al-Ebrahim explained. Meanwhile a link to Europe could switch between import and export according to seasonal demand.

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