News July 2006 Interview with Dr. Eng. Ahmad Khaled Al Ali

Interview with Dr. Eng. Ahmad Khaled Al Ali, Minister of Electricity in Syria

Damasco, Thursday 1st, June 2006 - Can you give us an overview of the scope and responsibilities of the Ministries? What have been the main achievements over the past years? What are the main challenges?

The Ministry of Electricity has the state monopoly over the electrical generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in Syria. The Ministry is responsible for the generation, and delivery of electrical energy through its two Public Establishments. The Public Establishment of Electricity for Generation and Transmission (PEEGT) is responsible for the generation and transmission of electricity through 11 Generating Companies, and the Public Establishment for Distribution and Exploitation of Electrical Energy (PEDEEE) buys the electricity from the PEEGT to sell it to the end customers in Syria.

Over the years, Syria has achieved an outstanding level of electrification, with 99,9% of Syria electrified. The demand for electricity is increasing by about 10% annually. This increasing demand is a burden for the Ministry and requires that new power plants be build each year. However it is also a sign of the good economical development of Syria. The country is developing horizontally and vertically and is undergoing a process of opening and change. This increase in the demand of electricity is a sign that the country is developing socially but also that more investors are coming to Syria. The sector needs to go through a restructuring process and we need to keep building new power plants.

There are 11 power plants in Syria. These “Electric Energy Generating Companies” are independent companies generating and selling energy to the grid transmission system. By 2008, two new Generating Companies with a capacity of 800 MW each will be added to the national grid to increase the current capacity of 7000 MW to 8500 MW by the end of 2008. The distribution of electrical energy is managed by local Distribution Companies located in each muhafazats (provinces); these companies are responsible to buy the energy from the grid and sell it to the end customers.

The Ministry of Electricity is developing programs to encourage the use of renewable energies. Can you tell us about those programs?

Under the umbrella of the Ministry of Electricity, the National Energy Research Center is developing programs to promote and develop the use of renewable energies. We are trying to rationalise the use of energy in order to make the system more efficient and prevent the wastage of energy. Syria generates electrical energy through gas (50%) and through fuel (50%). The Ministry of Electricity is working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Oil and natural resources to increase the proportion of gas used to generate electricity, a more environmentally friendly resource which production is bound to increase in Syria in the forecoming years.

The five-year plan aims at reaching 5% of our total electrical energy production from renewable energies by 2010.

A program of wind turbines is currently being developed: 20 meter stations have been installed to monitor the average force, direction, and speed of the wind in order to identify the best promising sites. By the end of 2007, 100 MW of energy will be generated through wind energy.

A second program is aiming to develop the use of solar energy. We are trying to entice households and industries to use cheap and cost effective solar energy. For instance, we are offering loans with 0% interest for the installation of solar system.

What can be the role played by foreign partners and investors in the development of the sector?

The 10% annual increase in demand for electricity, put a heavy burden on Syria to invest in the creation of new power plants with its own resources, and that it why, in 2005 we decided to embark on a reform of the sector and to open the sector to Private Foreign Investment. We are encouraging investors to come and contribute to the generating side or the distribution side of our national grid. For instance, we recently negotiated an agreement with Iberdrola for the construction of a Wind farm; we will buy electricity from the power station. We received several other offers, which are currently under evaluation and we are developing a new legal framework that will be more suitable for private foreign investment.

Syria has one of the cheapest tariffs in the world. Can you tell us about the interconnectivity in the region, and how Syria exports electricity?

Since 1994, Syria has recognized the importance of connecting to neighbouring grades. We are participating in the East Mediterranean Interconnection originally linking 5 countries (Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq); in 1996 the Interconnection was joined by Lebanon and Libya. The grids of Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Libya are now running as one grid since 2001. Interconnection is commercially and technically very beneficial. It induces more stability in the gride and therefore more reliability and efficiency of the electrical supply (shortages can be compensated through different peaks in demands for instance).

Through this interconnection, Syria supplies Lebanon, and sometimes Jordan and Iraq.

In 2006, the gride will be connected to Turkey and Libya will be connected to Morocco and Tunisia, which are linked to Europe. The Mediterranean loop will therefore be closed. The electrical supply will be more efficient, stable and reliable.

Our customers enjoy the lowest tariffs in the region (an average of four cents per KW). These tariffs are very encouraging for private investors and are an excellent incentive to attract Foreign Investment.

The three industrial free zones provide the investors with infrastructure and cheap supply of water and electricity.

What would be your final message to our readers who are potential investors?

Electricity is a pillar of the economy; through our Five-year Plan, we are pursuing our goal to deliver reliable, efficient, environmentally friendly and qualitative electrical energy.

Syria is promoting the rationalization and the good usage of electricity and aims to reach 5% of its production based on renewable energies within the next 5 years.

The Ministry of Electricity is really supporting the development of the economy by supplying cheap and reliable electricity.

In order to respond to the high increase in demand for electricity, Syria is encouraging private investment. We are liberalizing the sector and developing a new Legal Framework; we need the involvement and contribution of international contractors to come and contribute to the sector in the generation or the distribution side. We encourage investors to come and work with us.

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