GCCIA exploring options for enhanced energy trade

Conrad Prabhu –
The GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA), which manages the super-grid interconnecting the national grids of the member states of the six-nation bloc — including that of the Sultanate of Oman, says it is exploring options for enhanced energy trading between the GCC states.
It follows the successful trialling and commercial launch of electricity trading via the interconnection system in 2016 — an initiative that enabled around 1.32 million megawatt-hours of electricity worth around $161million be traded across the system last year.
Oman joined the GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) in December 2014, enabling access to power systems of other member states via an interconnection with the power grid of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at Mahadha.
The existing double circuit 220kV link connecting Oman’s Main Interconnected System (MIS) with the Abu Dhabi grid at Mahadha currently supports reliable transfers of up to 400 MW, although performance tests have demonstrated its ability to carry up to 800 MW in emergencies.
The link has been utilised actively to provide emergency reserves support to the benefit of Oman, the UAE, and other GCCIA member countries.
It was also a vehicle for the first-ever energy trade pilot that was scheduled between the Sultanate and the wider Gulf network last year.
“We consider 2016 as the year that (witnessed) the real start of power exchange and trade between the GCC countries since its start in 2014,” said Dr Matar al Neyadi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of GCCIA.
“During 2016, a number of agreements were signed for energy trading between the GCC states, which resulted in energy transaction deals totalling 1.32 terawatt-hours,” he added in the 2016 Annual Report of the authority’s overall performance.
The GCCIA is currently formulating plans to “develop and increase business opportunities for energy exchange and trade” among the GCC states.
“This can be achieved by developing the energy trading market system to be on a global basis, developing plans to increase the number of energy trading deals, setting up an incentive programme and drafting new laws for the Gulf market, conducting competency training courses for professionals to play a greater role in facilitating business processes, thus achieving one of the objectives of the Gulf interconnection project, approved by the GCC leaders,” he stated.
Significantly, grid interconnection has also contributed to a high level of security, reliability and efficiency in the operation of the GCC electricity networks.
Last year, as a fallback system, the GCC interconnected grid kicked in a total of 157 times in response to outages, incidents and failures in the networks of member states, ensuring security of supply 100 per cent of the time, said Ahmed Ali al Ebrahim, CEO.
Additionally, interconnection enabled member states to save approximately $404 million in investment and operational costs during the past year.“The total savings achieved by the GCC Interconnection for the GCC member states have reached more than $1 billion over the past three years,” the CEO stated.
Of this total, around $212.41 million in savings were accrued in the form of investments and funds that would have been necessary to build power plants to meet electricity demand had the interconnection system not existed.
A further $83 million in savings were generated in the form of economic value accruing to member states trading in electricity. A further $161 million in economic value came from total energy trades taking place across the Gulf-wide system in 2016.
Established in 2001, the GCC Interconnection Authority is a joint stock company subscribed by the six Gulf states, including Oman, with an authorised capital of $1.3 billion. The Authority is managed by a board of 12 directors with two representatives from each country.