Dubai to tender Gulf's first hydroelectric power plant in June

Hydroelectricity remains a largely unviable option in the water-scarce Arabian Peninsula

M1N54E Hatta is the inland exclave of the emirate of Dubai in the UAE where people can enjoy kayaking and boating on the lake of Hatta Dam. United Arab Emirates. David GABIS / Alamy Stock Photo
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Dubai will tender the Arabian Peninsula’s first hydroelectric power project located in the mountainous enclave of Hatta in June, the emirate’s utilities chief said on Monday.

"Firstly, we'll finish the engineering part. By June, we'll tender the project. [It will be an] international tender," Saeed Al Tayer, chief executive at Dubai Electricity and Water Authority told The National.

Mr Al Tayer was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony for the 700MW fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park in the Seih Al Dahal desert to the south of Dubai.

The 250MW project at Hatta, an inland enclave 134km east of Dubai straddling the Hajar mountains bordering Oman, will use water resources from the existing 1,716  million-gallon capacity dam.

While oil producing states on the Arabian Peninsula have included solar, wind and nuclear in their ambitious renewable strategies to free up crude for export, hydroelectricity, which accounts for over three-fourths of all renewable capacities globally, has been negligible in the Gulf region, mainly due to sparse water resources. The GCC states are some of the biggest consumers of highly energy-intensive desalinated water requiring a significant share of installed power capacities, making investment in hydroelectricity a non-viable option.

Dewa, which last year awarded an energy consultancy contract for the pumped-up hydroelectric power station at Hatta to France’s EDF, has estimated the cost of the project at around Dh1.92bn ($522m). The scheme will see power generated using solar during off-peak hours with natural waterfall pressure from an 880 million-gallon storage facility located 300m above the dam operating the power station during peak times.


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Dubai will also look to add around 200MW to 300MW of solar and wind capacities on a yearly basis to reach targeted levels of a quarter of renewables out of the power mix.

The utilities regulator has outlined an ambitious programme of Dh81bn to be spent on energy projects over the next five years.

“Fifty per cent … around Dh40bn will be done by the private sector and 40bn will be done by Dewa in-house, through expansion in transmission, distribution,” he said.

Mr Al Tayer dismissed prospects for any privatisation of the utilities transmission, saying the UAE’s size and “security concerns” ruled out such moves.

The utility awarded this month contracts for four substations of 500kV worth Dh1.2bn and will award more contracts for over 20 substations this year.

"Presently, we have more than 100 substations under construction, so the work is going on, [and] more investment in transmission and distribution [is expected],” he added.