Cairo: Egypt will sign by the end of October the commercial and operational agreements needed to build a $1.6 billion (Dh5.9 billion) project linking the power grids of the country with Saudi Arabia, its electricity minister, Ahmad Emam, said.
The two parties have already reviewed the technical terms of the project and agreed to sign the agreements by the end of next month, Imam said in a statement posted on the ministry website Saturday.
The power grid, which is expected to start operations in 2016, aims to exchange 3,000 megawatts of electricity between the two power-hungry countries through direct-current electrical lines.
It has been repeatedly delayed due to the political upheaval in Egypt, despite the North African country’s desire to push the project forward, according to people aware of the situation.
Power lines will be extended by 820 kilometres in Saudi Arabia and 480 kilometres in Egypt. Saudi Electricity Co, the largest listed utility among the Gulf Arab states, and Egyptian Electricity Holding Co will each finance, own and operate parts of a 20-kilometre undersea cable in their respective countries.
Egypt plans to send Saudi Arabia electricity through the connection in the afternoons and the kingdom will send electricity to Egypt in the evenings, taking advantage of the difference in the countries’ peak usage hours.
Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest economy, has seen its power requirements rise rapidly in recent years as its population grew and the government spent oil revenues on new industries and infrastructure to diversify the local economy away from hydrocarbons.
The kingdom needs to invest 500 billion Saudi riyals ($133.3 billion) in electricity generation and distribution over the next 10 years to meet the growing demand. It is also studying a plan to export electricity to European markets during the winter when the kingdom’s power demands are low, and import it during the summers when the country has peak load.