France's Macron to address situation in Lebanon on Sunday: Presidency    Thousands protest COVID-19 restrictions in central London    Iran prepares to impose new coronavirus lockdowns as cases rise    Al-Azhar urges Egyptians to confront destabilisation plots    Ethiopian PM says Addis Ababa has 'no intention of harming' Egypt, Sudan with GERD    Ukraine plane crash death toll rises to 26, with 1 survivor    Russia given 5 more months to fix 'deficient' doping plan    Liverpool boss Klopp backs Premier League sides helping struggling EFL teams    Manchester City's injured Jesus ruled out of Brazil qualifiers    UK pledges over $400 million for WHO, calls for end to 'ugly rifts'    Egypt's Assiut, Sohag int'l airports receive first Saudi Airlines flights since resumption of air traffic    Egypt's central banks cuts interest rates by 50 bps    'It's important to show our ingenuity': Nigerian collector promotes local artistic heritage amidst Black Lives Matter    EgyptAir receives 11th Airbus A220-300 from Canada    3 policemen, 4 prisoners killed in Cairo jailbreak attempt    Last-minute bids    Wust El Balad band gives a concert at the Fountain theatre    Khan Almaghraby gallery group exhibition is a must go    Egyptian insurance companies' premiums 9.6% up in five months    Egypt's President Sisi names new head of anti-corruption watchdog    Egypt's offers 18 bln pounds T-bills on Sunday    EgyptAir offering discounts for some international flights    Egypt records 212 new coronavirus cases, 14 deaths on Saturday    Egypt to require PCR coronavirus tests for airport travelers    Egypt sends 125 tonnes of glass by sea to Beirut    Legend Messi officially wants to leave Barcelona, hands transfer request    Global smartphone sales drop 20% in Q2, yet Apple's iPhone sales steady    Sisi: Egypt keen on establishing development projects with Iraq, Jordan    Egyptian megastar Amr Diab releases new hit music video    Making of Harry Potter will be available for fans at new park in Tokyo    Egypt's Senate elections official results to be announced Wednesday    Netflix Egypt is bringing megastar Amr Diab back with a new original    Egypt reopens Rafah border crossing for first time since April    Egypt's senate elections 2020 trending on social media in few days    African Champions League final will be played on Oct. 16-17, CAF says    No room to delay Egyptian Premier League games – EFA's board member    The Facebook Preacher's Search for Fame, and Egypt's Economy    Egypt calls on UNSC to address oil spill risks off Yemen coast    Egypt economically strong in face of COVID-19, reforms ongoing: International Cooperation Minister    Arafa Holding reports $144,000 COVID-19-related losses in April    Egypt's efforts in Libya to activate free will of Libyan people: Al-Sisi    Hyksos campaigns were internal takeover, not foreign invaders: study    COVID-19 affects Egypt sporting clubs    COVID-19 will soon turn to seasonal like swine flu: Presidential Health Advisor    ‘Egypt's Support' coalition convenes to discuss its Senate election list    Robbery attempt leads to discovery of Ptolemaic monuments in Qena    Flouting international guidance, Ethiopia unilaterally starts filling its Nile dam    Zaha speaks out after online racial abuse    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Record temperatures, pending deals inflame Iraq's power woes
Published in Ahram Online on 04 - 08 - 2020

In Iraq's oil-rich south, the scorching summer months pose painful new choices in the age of the coronavirus: stay at home in the sweltering heat with electricity cut off for hours, or go out and risk the virus.
This is Zain al-Abidin's predicament. A resident of al-Hartha district, in Basra province, al-Abidin lost his job due to pandemic-related restrictions. During the day he listens helplessly to his four-month old daughter cry in the unbearable heat, too poor to afford private generators to offset up to eight-hour power cuts.
``I have no tricks to deal with this but to pray to God for relief,'' he said.
As temperatures soar to record levels this summer - reaching 52 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in Baghdad last week - Iraq's power supply has fallen short of demand yet again, creating a spark for renewed anti-government protests. Iraq has imposed a strict lockdown and 24-hour curfew. So families have to pump fuel and money into generators or, if they can't, suffer in stifling homes without air conditioning.
State coffers were slashed because of an economic crisis spurred by falling oil prices and the pandemic, leaving little for investment to maintain Iraq's aging electricity infrastructure. Importing additional power is tied up in politics. On one side, Iranians demand overdue payments on energy they already provided Iraq. On the other, the U.S. is pushing Baghdad to move away from Iran and strike energy deals with Gulf allies, according to three senior Iraqi government officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Power cuts, coinciding with stay-at-home restrictions and scorching temperatures, have extended into Lebanon and Syria, two countries also teetering on the brink of economic collapse.
In Lebanon, residents suffer from power cuts lasting up to 20 hours a day in Beirut even as humidity climbs to above 80%, adding to public outrage over the country's severe financial crisis. Neighborhood generators have had to switch off to give their engines a break and to ration fuel, causing a run on candles and battery-operated lamps.
Like Iraq, blackouts in Lebanon have been a fixture of life, largely because of profiteering, corruption and mismanagement, ever since the 1975-1990 civil war.
In Syria, nearly a decade of war has left infrastructure in shambles and electricity cuts are frequent. Last week, power was off for hours even as temperatures in Damascus reached a record-breaking 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit).
In Baghdad, the roar of generators punctuates daily outages like clockwork. Iraqis find short-lived respite by using public showers set up on the street. The heat was blamed for an explosion at a federal police weapons depot.
``We bring our children downstairs and spray them with a hose to cool them down,'' said Ahmed Mohamed, in Baghdad.
Reforms in the electricity sector have been stymied by protests and the vested interests of private generator companies, some with connections to political figures. Public reluctance to pay the state for electricity has long flummoxed Iraqi officials.
In the summer of 2018, poor service delivery prompted destabilizing protests in Basra. The following year, mass anti-government protests paralyzed Baghdad and Iraq's south, as tens of thousands decried the rampant corruption that has plagued delivery of services, including electricity.
Two protesters were killed by security forces in Baghdad last week while demonstrating against power cuts.
Crumbling power lines mean there is 1,000 megawatts less power this summer. Supply now falls 10,000 megawatts short of demand, a senior official in the Electricity Ministry said.
``You have to work very hard just to stand still,'' said Ali al-Saffar, the head of the Middle East a division of the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
To survive the summer months, al-Saffar recommends an immediate audit of generators used in public offices to see what can be put toward the national grid, as fewer people come to work under lockdown measures.
The government has already implemented emergency measures to divert power used in operations in oil fields to add to the grid, officials in oil and electricity ministries said.
Iraq relies heavily on Iran for power especially during the summer. But budgetary shortfalls have thrown Baghdad into arrears. Two government officials said urgent allocations were being made to avoid a repeat of 2018, when Iran halted imports in the summer because of outstanding payments.
Dependence on Iranian energy has also complicated U.S.-Iraq relations.
To qualify for successive sanctions waivers enabling imports to continue, Iraq must prove to the Trump administration that it is taking concrete steps to wean itself off reliance on Iran.
The U.S. has pushed for deals with Gulf allies to diversify Iraq's power supply, three officials said.
Two projects appear to be in advanced stages of negotiations. The first would provide an initial 500 megawatts of supply to southern Iraq by connecting the grid to a supergrid encompassing six Gulf countries. A framework agreement was signed last year with the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority, but lack of financing to pay for 300 kilometers (187 miles) of transmission lines has slowed progress.
The Gulf has pledged to put up the money, but ``they are worried about the political situation,'' said one senior government official. ``They had a video-conference with the (Electricity) Ministry in early July - representatives from the U.S. were on the call to push them.''
The second is the development of a much-anticipated gas hub in southern Iraq to feed domestic power demands.
Talks are ongoing to develop Iraq's Ratawi oil field and capture gas flared in nearby fields to generate electricity. Under the deal, Riyadh-based ACWA Power and U.S. firm Honeywell would construct the gas hub, financed by proceeds from the field, operated by Saudi Aramco.
But the agreement has not been officially inked.
Meanwhile, Iraqis continue taking to the streets in protest.
Activist Mohammed Ibrahim, who stages small sit-ins with his fellow activists in Basra, said demonstrations would continue even if their calls for change fell on deaf ears in the halls of power.
``The protests are the only way to show this injustice,'' he said.

Clic here to read the story from its source.