The UAE yesterday linked to a regional power grid as part of a Dh5 billion (US$1.36bn) project expected to help Gulf states share electricity.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, pressed a button lighting up connections on a large map during the launch at the InterContinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
It marked the second phase of the GCC Interconnection Grid project, linking the UAE grid to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. The participation of the final member, Oman, has been delayed and it is now expected to join within two years.
The UAE contributed Dh800 million to the project, which could save states more than Dh18bn in electricity costs.
"This would provide a platform for energy trade and exchange, while improving the reliability of existing energy systems and lowering electricity reserve requirements on GCC countries," said Sheikh Mohammed.
He said the Gulf grid would lay the foundation for a common energy market among the GCC countries and provide the states with sustainable energy supplies to support the national economies.
Gulf countries have struggled to meet ever-growing electricity demands. Kuwait has suffered power cuts during summer months over the past four years due to a lack of investment, which has left power stations ill-equipped to deal with soaring temperatures.
Speaking after the launch, Essa al Kuwari, the chairman of the GCC Interconnection Authority (GCCIA), said the Gulf grid would provide "part" of a solution to the region's power problems.
Talks are continuing about selling electricity among GCC states, he said, adding they expected to start trading by next summer.
The maximum power that can be transferred to a country at any one time is 1,200 megawatts. Mr al Kuwari added studies were under way into connecting the Gulf grid to the wider Arab region and Europe.
"The Arab League is conducting a study for the connection to the wider Arab region, and Saudi Arabia along with the World Bank is conducting the study for connection to Europe."
Robert Bryniak, the chief executive of Golden Sands Management Consulting, said the grid would help solve Kuwait's electricity woes.
"Qatar has surplus capacity during the summer now, so they will be able to contribute to Kuwait's situation," Mr Bryniak said.
He said in the longer term the grid was expected to add stability to GCC states' own networks, because they could share power in the event of an emergency - provided there were not several at the same time, which was "unlikely".