State-controlled Saudi Electricity Co (SEC) has started up part of its new 2,640MW Jeddah South power plant and linked it to the grid, in order ti face the growing electricity demand from the western region particularly for cities of Mecca and Medina. Reuters reported.

The $3.12b project was announced in 2012 and the plant is expected to reach up to 40% efficiency in fuel consumption by using super critical boilers for the first time in the kingdom. However, SEC did not say when the plant would hit full capacity.

“After three-and-a-half years of continuous work; Saudi Electricity Co has successfully operated and linked the first steam unit to the electricity grid with a capacity of 660 MW,” the company said according to Arabian Business.

The world’s largest oil exporter burns a significant amount of its crude oil for power generation particularly during peak summer demand. Besides, Saudi energy consumption was expected to grow by 4-5% annually in the next few years, reaching double its current level by 2030 if no efficiency measures are taken. However, SEC expects the more efficient plant to burn much less fuel oil per unit of electricity produced.

In addition, the electricity  company has previously signed a $900m loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) among other international lenders, to help finance the construction of  a 2,640MW power plant in Shuqaiq, in the southwestern Jizan province.