Bahrain government looks to private sector to help lift generation capacity

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Several new projects will expand Bahrain’s power generation capacity, as the kingdom aims to meet rising demand from both residential and industrial consumers.

At the end of June the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) closed its prequalification process for interested developers in the tender round for the Al Dur 2 Independent Water and Power Project.

After review by the authority, the project will be awarded on a build-own-operate basis, though further dates for project tenders have yet to be announced.

According to the tender document, the $1.5bn gas-fired plant is expected to have a generation capacity of 1200-1500 MW, with construction to begin in the first quarter of 2019. The aim is to commission the second phase by the end of 2020.

The new plant will enable Bahrain to meet growing power demand, which is rising by 7-10% per year and expected to reach nearly 20,000 GWh by 2020, according to World Bank data, with peak demand in the interim averaging 4312 MW per month. As of 2015 total installed power generation capacity in Bahrain stood at 3 GW.

This new project follows the opening of the first phase of the Al Dur Independent Water and Power Project in 2012, which cost $2.1bn and involved the installation of four gas turbine and two steam turbine units with a combined capacity of 1.2 GW.

Funding secured for Alba smelter power project

The development pipeline for Bahrain’s utilities sector received another boost in recent months, with moves geared towards powering a single-site aluminium smelter at the Askar complex of state-owned Aluminium Bahrain (Alba).

In mid-August General Electric (GE) Energy Financial Services announced it had secured funding for Alba’s 1.79-GW combined-cycle facility. Swiss export credit agency SERV will provide loans for goods and services, with financing also coming from Germany’s Commerzbank, the UK’s Standard Chartered, US-based Citibank and JP Morgan, and France’s Crédit Agricole.

The power plant is tied to Alba’s Line 6 expansion project, which is scheduled to come on-line in the first quarter of 2019, pushing the smelter’s annual aluminium output up by 540,000 tonnes to 1.5m tonnes.

Engineering, construction and commissioning was awarded to a consortium of GE Power and Turkey’s GAMA Power Systems last year.

Reliability concerns spur investment in transmission network

With demand increases on the horizon, the government is also working to enhance its distribution network.

In May 2016 Bahrain announced plans to build a BD180m ($477.3m), 400-KV transmission network, which will overlay the existing 220-KV network to enable expansion and facilitate the cost-efficient transfer of bulk power.  

The project will be implemented by German multinational Siemens, with Italian manufacturing firm Prysmian Group providing transmission lines and South Korea’s Hyundai supplying the transformers. Construction on the network is well under way, and the ministry hopes to begin commissioning the line in the second quarter of 2018.

This new system should help to offset expenses incurred by the limitations of the current transmission system, according to Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza, minister of electricity and water affairs.

“The existing 220-KV network is being expanded to deal with high short-circuit currents in several sections, which otherwise would have led to unsafe and unreliable operations, as well as to inefficient maintenance costs,” he told OBG.

Technology upgrades to yield efficiency gains

The country’s utilities sector is also working to increase the use of technology as a way of improving energy efficiency.

“Among the key initiatives with respect to technological advancement and the development of sustainable electricity are the wide adoption of smart metering and network tools, as well as strategic planning and the development of an efficient and adaptable regulatory framework,” Mirza told OBG.

Steps taken towards these goals include a tender opened by EWA in the third quarter of 2016 for the supply and installation of a smart meter data management system, with several other tenders related to the supply and use of smart meters offered since.

In another move to improve sustainability, Italian technical and engineering services firm CESI was appointed in July to help integrate renewable energy generation within the established electricity network. It will do so by collaborating with the Bahrain Sustainable Energy Unit, a department set up in 2014 as part of the UN Development Programme to create an environment conducive to growth in the alternative energy market.

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