Iran’ path to become W. Asia’s electricity hub
Energy ministry intends to make Iran the region’s electricity hub, and the Iranian private sector can be the best partner for achieving the set goal, while the target is challenged due to the presence of rivals in the region.
Iran has the potential and is aimed at becoming West Asia’s electricity hub and to act as a bridge between East and Europe for transmitting electricity relying on its huge energy resources, skilled manpower, and advanced facilities.
The country’s total electricity exports vary depending on the hot and cold seasons of the year, but electrical communication with neighboring countries continues.
Electricity generated by Iran’s power plants in the Iranian calendar year 1398 (March 2019- March 2020) reached 328 million megawatt-hours, registering a growth of 1.6 percent compared to the previous year. Out of 322 million MW of electricity produced in the country in the said period, 8.029 million MWh was exported to 7 neighboring countries, which is equivalent to 2.5 percent of the total electricity produced in the country.
According to the released detailed statistics in 1398, the biggest importer was Iraq with 6.652 billion kWh. Afghanistan (775 million kWh), Pakistan (516 million kWh), Armenia (53 million kWh), and Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (33 million kWh) came next.
Total energy import into Iran last year was about 1.329 billion kWh, of which 1.294 billion kWh came from Armenia and 35 million kWh from Nakhchivan.
Presently, electricity exports have become the only source of foreign exchange revenue for the Ministry of Energy, with synchronization of power grids with the neighboring countries as a major focal point of the ministry.
Iran currently has electricity exchange with Armenia, Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Iraq, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan.
According to reports, Iran’s electricity exports in the current year (2020) have reached 436 million kWh, indicating a 19-percent increase compared to the previous year and showing that the positive trend of Iran’s electricity exports continues.
The country’s electricity network has been synchronized with Iraq, while the electricity networks of Russia and Azerbaijan are the next in line for becoming linked with the Iranian grid in the coming months. Affiliated negotiations are also underway with Qatar.
The ministry has held talks with Afghanistan about getting their power networks connected to that of Iran.
Recently, the energy ministry has voiced readiness for joining the Iranian electricity network with Europe.
Despite its exports and connections, the path to becoming the region’s electricity hub is bumpy, particularly due to the recently accorded agreements among regional countries over power transmission.
The governments of Jordan and Iraq, Iran’ major customer, signed a contract on 27 September for the construction of a transmission line link between the two countries that will enable Jordan to deliver up to 1TWh per year of electricity to Iraq during the project’s first phase – with the potential of ramping up power exports further in the future. Geopolitically, however, Jordan’s distance from the population centers of Iraq is much greater than Iran’s distance from these population centers located in the east of Iraq.
In addition to increasing energy exchanges between Iraq and its other neighboring countries, the strong presence of the United States in the electricity market of this country is of significance. For instance, the American GE Power is present in Iraq. It has secured the availability of 7 GW that are currently operating and delivered 1.5 GW of additional power by 2019 through fast power technologies and upgrades at existing power plant sites – the equivalent electricity needed to supply up to 1.5 million additional Iraqi homes. GE has also brought a total of 14 GW of new power generation capacity online to support growing power consumer needs and etc, all have made Iraq highly reliant on the American body.
Iraq also intends to import 200 megawatts of electricity from Turkey to address the severe power shortage it is facing.
On the other hand, Tajikistan is expecting to normalize its energy exports to Afghanistan, i.e. Iran’s second major customer, with a plan to transmit a whopping 150 megawatts of electrical power. In addition, Afghanistan has signed a $160 million renewable energy deal with the US, Turkey, and India. In a recent move, Afghanistan has also inked an agreement with Uzbekistan on the 10-year import of electricity.
Newly accorded agreements among regional countries and Iran’s rivals have been endorsed while the capacity of the installed power plant in Iran is more than 82,000 MW, making the country a great hub in the region. Moreover, the country also owns huge gas resources that can be used for generating electricity.
Considering the increasing regional and global energy needs, Iran needs to strengthen its relations with other countries to potentially play a role in determining the price and supply of these resources worldwide.
It also needs to use the capacities of its private sector to build new networks to increase its export capabilities. The energy need in regional countries can give Iran a chance to take advantage of its private sector investments to supply electricity projects and preserve its position in regional electricity transmissions.
The Iranian private sector can supply the required financial resources for the construction of a transmission line from Zahedan to Gwadar for exports to Pakistan or transfer electricity to the Iraqi Kurdistan.
The electricity thirst of the countries in Southwest Asia along with Iran’s power generation capacity, thanks to its available gas resources and power plants, can pave the way for Iran to become the center of electricity production in the region.
MEHR News Agency