Interview: Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza
What steps are being taken to upgrade the grid system and the supply of electricity?
ABDUL HUSSAIN BIN ALI MIRZA: Fifteen 220-KV bulk supply point substations are either under construction or have been completed since 2009. On the 66-KV system, 30 substations have been built over the same period, and additional ones are being provided as the distribution load in the Hidd area experiences rapid growth. There are also 300 new 11-KV outlets being installed to coincide with the commissioning of new primary substations.
Over the next three years, further expansion of these systems will address the overloading problem of some of 220-KV and 66-KV substations and meet total load demands of developments in the housing, commercial and industrial sectors. The first stage of connecting the new substations to the existing network should be commissioned during the first quarter of 2015, and the overall estimated budget is BD310m ($815.7m).
How do you plan to reduce reliance on aquifers, and how is progress in expanding water storage?
MIRZA: Bahrain’s water production capacity is around 200m gallons per day, of which 90% comes from desalinated water and the rest from natural resources such as ground water abstraction. The government has set a minimum storage target of three days’ average demand. The present storage capacity is 330m gallons, and with ongoing storage tanks projects, this level is expected to reach 402m gallons by the first quarter of 2013 and 400m gallons two years later. However, meeting the 600m-gallon target depends on completing the water transmission development facility associated with the Al Dur water and power project, as well as the availability of sites and corridors to install pipelines.
What is your strategy for incorporating smart technology to monitor electricity and water usage?
MIRZA: We have started to adopt smart meter technology in new commercial and housing projects. We are already using 400 smart electricity meters in one commercial building and will install a further 200 in a housing project. The current smart meter budget is around BD1m ($2.6m) for 10,000 meters and about BD5m ($13.2m) to upgrade our back office systems. We are also planning in the future to install water and electricity meters at various housing projects, including 500 at Jidhafs, 300 at Burhama and 1200 at Al Hid.
We are also testing the impact of power line carrier network reliability on data quality, and the reliability of the ground positioning receivers network. However, the Electricity and Water Authority is fully aware that a smart grid does not depend on smart meters alone, so there is a requirement to upgrade our back office enterprise resource planning system to ensure the integration of the meter data management application and customer information. We are also in the process of fitting smart water meters in a commercial building.
Given that the attendant infrastructure is expensive, is solar energy part of Bahrain’s future?
MIRZA: Renewable energy sources, as well as issues such as conservation and efficiency, have attracted great interest both regionally and internationally. Bahrain is undertaking various initiatives to address environmental requirements, such as studying renewable energy options, enhancing conservation strategies and promoting better public understanding. A national committee formed in 2009 looked into feasible renewable energy projects, and two strategic initiatives are in different phases of implementation. The first is a 5-MW photovoltaic solar plant in Awali, with roof panels and connection through a smart grid. The second is a combined solar/wind plant that will be located in the south, with a capacity of 3 MW and 2 MW for solar and wind, respectively. An engineering, procurement and construction contract for this project is likely to be tendered in early 2013, with the award slated for the middle of that year. This plant should yield the data to aid strategic decisions on how to best use renewable energies.
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