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Siemens, General Electric, Iraqi PM give electricity reassurance

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi met with senior representatives of Siemens and General Electric on Wednesday in a step forward on recent deals signed with the companies to develop Iraq’s frail electricity infrastructure.

Abdul-Mahdi met with the CEO of German company Siemens to discuss the implementation of a deal, signed in April by the Iraqi and German government during Abdul Mahdi’s visit to Germany,  to develop Iraq’s electricity sector, according to a statement released by his official Facebook account on Wednesday.

“We are very keen on implementing the project at its agreed times and with no delays,” he said, adding that electricity sector development should cover “all parts of Iraq, especially the south of the country.”

The April agreement is already in its first phase, valued at $785 million. It consists of the construction of a gas-fired plant in al-Zubaidiya, Wasit province, the upgrade of gas turbines, and installation of substations and transformers across the country. In its entirety, the deal could be worth up to $14 billion.

Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser vowed to further develop the Iraqi electricity sector with the help of the Iraqi government, as well as provide immediate-term electricity relief during the current summer heat, according to the statement.

Last summer, deadly protests broke out in response to a lack of basic services, including electricity and clean water, centering on the oil-rich southern city of Basra. Its residents demanded improvements on the city’s infrastructure and services.

The city’s rife poverty and wide-scale unemployment serve as a stark contrast to the city’s role as Iraq’s economic powerhouse, home to abundant oil reserves and a busy trading port.

Security forces violently clamped down on the protests, killing and wounding dozens of protesters.

Seeking to avoid a repeat of last year’s unrest, Iraq’s minister of electricity Luay al-Khateeb urged Iraqi political and societal leaders “not to politicize electricity” and sought to ramp up the grid before this summer, promising a 20 hour a day state power supply.

Failure to fulfill his promise resulted in hundreds of protesters hitting the streets in Basra and the city of Diwaniya in June, albeit on a smaller scale than last year.

Abdul-Mahdi also discussed electricity sector improvements with Joseph Anis, head of General Electric’s operations in the Middle East.

“The Iraqi government is delighted about the  project we are implementing with General Electric to improve electricity services in Iraq.” Abdul-Mahdi told Anis. “We are open for foreign investors to invest in Iraq, especially in the electricity sector.”

“General Electric is happy to operate in Iraq to serve the Iraqi people, and make sure to provide enough electricity and power to the people of Iraq during the hot summer days.” Anis said.

“We are working on many power stations in Iraq mainly in Iraqi south provinces  to increase the general electricity production in Iraq by additional 3000 megawatts.”

Development of the national grid marks a move towards energy self-sufficiency for Iraq, which is currently highly dependent on Iranian energy to support its ramshackle power grid.

The country currently pipes in up to 28 million cubic meters of Iranian gas a day for its power plants and directly imports up to 1,300 megawatts of Iranian electricity, mainly to power the country’s southern provinces. Last summer’s protests in Basra were in part ignited by an Iranian cut in its electricity exports.

The imposition of US sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in November 2018 has further exacerbated Iraq’s electricity status, making the country reliant on the granting of temporary waivers from the US that exempt it from associated sanctions for purchasing much-needed Iranian energy exports.

The latest 90-day waiver for Iraq was granted on June 15th. Source