Saudi Arabia to Change Voltage Import Requirements in 2012

June 5, 2011 – Currently, Saudi Arabia uses a dual-voltage power distribution system. In residential homes and household appliances, the Kingdom uses 127 volts, whereas a 220 voltage is used for larger devices such as air conditioners, elevators, and pumps. More than 70 percent of the world now uses a 220/380 volt system, with plans to eventually shift voltage to a 230/400 volts distribution. Mapping out a long-term strategy to comply with international standards, the Saudi Government approved a measure in August 2010 to change the voltage of the Saudi power supply to 230/400 volts.

As a result, the Saudi Government has announced that after a six-month grace period ending in June 2012, Saudi Arabia will no longer import appliances that run on less than 220 volts. Appliances that use 127 volts will be sold for an additional five years, after which time only products using 220 volts or more will be allowed, while parts for 127-volt appliances will be imported for an additional 15 years.

Only U.S. and Japanese appliances are manufactured to run on the lower voltage level, but the change is not expected to affect larger American-made appliances such as refrigerators and ovens, which already run on 230 volts. Most U.S. exporters that also trade with Europe and Asia are already familiar with manufacturing their products in varying voltages, as these regions use the 230 volt power supply.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that does not use the 230 volt standard, and the conversion to a higher voltage will permit Saudi Arabia to integrate its power grid into regional power initiatives like the GCC’s joint power grid, launched in 2009.

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