Warming erodes Kuwait’s power and water reserves

14 August 2023

More on Kuwait’s power and water sector: 

> IWPP: Firms respond to Kuwait independent utilities request
> POWERLocal firm wins 250MW Subiya package
> PRIVATISATIONKuwait thermal plant privatisation to go ahead


The temperature in Kuwait soared to 51 degrees Celsius on 1 August, sending its electricity load index up to 16,940MW. This breached its maximum expected load this year of 16,830MW by 0.7 per cent.

This year’s projected maximum load is already 4 per cent higher than the previous year's recorded maximum load. It leaves only roughly 8 per cent of reserve capacity against an available capacity understood to stand at 18,250MW.

Similarly, water consumption across the Gulf state on 2 August, when the temperature decreased to 50 degrees, exceeded production by 29 million gallons, prompting the state utility to access its strategic water reserve capacity to plug the shortfall.

The electricity consumption spike reportedly caused two feeders at the country’s main substation south of Surra in the capital to trip, which led to power outages in some parts of Zahra, a district in Kuwait’s Hawalli governorate.

Kuwait’s Electricity & Renewable Energy Ministry (MEWRE) assured the public that the maximum capacity available in the country’s electricity network during the current summer is 18,250MW, as earlier cited, and that it could safely provide up to 17,660MW.

Persistent delays

The following week MEWRE – through the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (Kapp) – received prequalification applications for the contracts to develop Kuwait’s next two independent water and power producer (IWPP) projects.

The two schemes – Al-Zour North 2 & 3 and Al-Khiran 1 – will have a total combined power generation capacity of 4,500MW and a water desalination capacity of over 150 million imperial gallons a day (MIGD), which will go a long way to address Kuwait’s precarious electricity and water supply situation.

Ironically, these two schemes have been in the planning and early procurement stages since 2017 and have suffered significant delays in the intervening period.

It is the second time developers have submitted statements of qualification (SOQs) for the contracts over the preceding 11 months.

The delays have caused major frustration for some developers and contractors. One utility developer that submitted an SOQ in September last year told MEED they did not participate in the latest attempt to start the prequalification process for the IWPP schemes, without elaborating.

Others expect the country’s stakeholders to eventually approve and expedite the procurement process for the integrated power and desalination facilities.

“I’m not very optimistic, but we submitted an SOQ anyway,” another source tells MEED.

EPC projects motoring ahead

The ministry’s conventional power plant projects have been moving at a relatively faster pace. In June this year, the local company Heavy Engineering Industries & Shipbuilding (Heisco) won a contract for the phase 2 upgrade of the Subiya power plant complex in Kuwait.

Heisco saw off competition from two local companies, Alghanim International and Al-Zain United General Trading & Contracting, for the KD114.28m ($372m) contract.

The project aims to convert an existing 250MW simple-cycle plant into a combined-cycle gas-turbine plant.

In April, a consortium comprising Heisco and Japan’s Mitsubishi Power was also awarded a contract to retrofit the main thermal power generation plant at the power complex.

The contract is understood to be valued at KD90.9m. It entails the upgrade of eight steam turbines and electric generators at the Subiya power plant, which is expected to reach a capacity of 2,400MW once the project is complete.

The existing plant at the Subiya power complex was commissioned between 1998 and 2002. This implies that the steam turbines and generators in commercial operation for nearly 20 years require upgrades to continue operating and improve their performance.

Two steps forward

While the country has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060, the state utility has yet to make any remarkable progress in procuring new renewable energy capacity.

The recent political deadlock has hampered the procurement of the next phases of the Shagaya Renewable Energy Programme (SREP), despite the award 12 months previously of the project’s transaction advisory contract to a team led by London-headquartered consultancy firm EY.

At the time, the advisory contract was understood to cover the Al-Dibdibah solar project, which will comprise SREP’s second phase, and a third phase expected to include a 720MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, a 1,150MW concentrated solar power (CSP) facility and a wind power farm.

Notably, two state-backed downstream operators – Kuwait National Petroleum Company and Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company (Kipic) – have launched a tender for a contract to undertake a pre-feasibility study identifying opportunities to use renewable energy in their operations.

Kuwait is also expected to make some progress on its first utility privatisation scheme, which forms part of the initiative to strengthen private sector participation in the sector.

In December last year, it was revealed that UK-headquartered Deloitte had submitted a low bid of KD1.2m ($3.9m) for the transaction advisory contract in line with the planned privatisation of the $1.26bn North Shuaiba power and water plant in Kuwait.

GCC grid

While working to boost its electricity reserves and make its electricity systems greener, Kuwait stands to benefit from the ongoing upgrade of the GCC electricity grid, through which other GCC states, such as the UAE, may decide to transmit excess clean energy.

The Al-Fadhili high-voltage direct current (HVDC) converter station upgrade in Saudi Arabia is expected to enable the exchange of 1,800MW of electricity between the six states once complete.

In October last year, the GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) awarded India-based KEC International a contract for an overhead transmission line project linking the substations in Wafra in Kuwait and Fadhili in Saudi Arabia.

The estimated $120m project extends an existing double-circuit 400kV line from Al-Zour in Kuwait to Ghunan in Saudi Arabia. The line has an intermediate interconnection at Fadhili, with associated substations completed in 2009 as part of the first phase of the GCCIA network. The new project is expected to complete in 2025.

This month’s special report on Kuwait also includes: 

> ECONOMYStakeholders hope Kuwait can execute spending plans
> ENERGYKuwait’s $300bn energy target is a big test
> BANKINGKuwaiti banks enter bounce-back mode
> INTERVIEWKuwait’s Gulf Centre United sets course for expansion

Jennifer Aguinaldo
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