Iraq braces for the summer season, announces ‘progress’ in electricity supply

As summer in Iraq approaches and temperatures soar into 50-plus Celsius, the real test begins for Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi — to ensure electricity supply can meet demands in the country.

The PM announced Tuesday that “important progress” had been made in the electricity sector, and said he hoped there would be a boost in new energy entering the system before the end of May, and more in June and July.

“On the 27th and 28th, we will have about 3,000 megawatts (MW) enter the electricity capacity,” said the PM.

Luay al-Khateeb, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity also referenced an injection to the electricity available in the country, tweeting a projection on May 13 that June’s electricity supply would surpass 18,000 MW — a jump from 14,500 MW in June 2018.

Iraq has suffered from severe power shortages since the 1990s. The shortages became even more severe by 2003 with aging power generation plants and attacks on them, and yet another blow crippled the grid system with attacks from the Islamic State (ISIS).

“Electricity is a national security issue,” al-Khateeb said at the ministry’s headquarters in Baghdad, earlier this month.

“In the end, any political, economic, or security crisis in Iraq will affect the whole region— and the global economy will be open to threat.”

“We’re urging for this file not to be politicized.”

Electricity demand skyrockets in the summer as more people stay inside, running air conditioners, air coolers, and fans, when temperatures in the country often pushes past 50 degrees in many parts of the arid country.

Last summer, electricity shortages were a primary reason for protests spreading across Iraq. Especially in southern Basra, people went to the streets demonstrating against poor services, lack of employment, and the meagre hours of state-provided electricity.

Iran had cut its electricity exports to Iraq for a month, over unpaid bills for power, and because of rising consumption demands among its own citizens.

Iraq imports around 1,300 MW of electricity from neighboring Iran each year, accounting for nearly one third of its supply.

The US granted another waiver to Iraq on Wednesday, exempting them from sanctions imposed on Iran. However, United States is working with Iraq to help break its reliance on Iranian energy.

The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, in the medium term, is making plans to develop solar power, gas capturing capabilities, and energy deals with neighbors.

At the end of April, Iraq signed a deal with Siemens to upgrade its outdated electricity grid.

The first phase of the agreement consists of three contracts valued at 700 million euros ($785 million), according to Siemens. The three contracts include the construction of a 500 megawatt gas-fired plant in al-Zubaidiya in Wasit province, upgrading 40 gas turbines, and installing 13 substations and 34 transformers across the country.

It is part of a $14 billion road map aimed at upgrading Iraq’s electricity.

The electricity supply in Iraq varies greatly, depending on the location within in the country, and the season. Most people in the country rely on private generators to fill the gap. Source

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