Briefing paper on power

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Saturday 22 January 2005

IRAQ: Briefing paper on power


Power shortages in central and southern Iraq were always common, but following the US-led invasion last year output dropped dramatically.

Iraqi insurgents and looters vandalised electricity lines and systematically sabotaged pylons, selling copper cables for scrap, officials at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) fixing the lines said last autumn. Northern Iraq, being de facto independent of Baghdad since 1991, has operated much of its own electricity grid for the last 12 years; a large part of the network there is connected to the power grid in neighbouring Turkey.

UNDP officials worked with the Ministry of Electricity late last year to either construct or repair several 400-kilovolt transmission lines, most of which connect the southern and central regions to the north's potentially more plentiful supplies. Many of these lines have been damaged and repaired at least once over the last year.

According to figures from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), pre-conflict electricity generating levels were around 4,400 megawatts (MW). In the last year, numerous electronic consumer goods have come onto the market, creating a higher demand for consumer power, Ministry of Electricity officials say. At the same time, however, many factories are still not working, they say, which lowers domestic demand.

Power cuts in the capital Baghdad remain common, while in other parts of the country many villages that had intermittent power may now have virtually constant supplies, according to US-led coalition officials. This is due to new and upgraded power grids. The authorities plan to have a generating capacity of 6,000 MW this summer, buying extra power from Syria and Turkey when available, according to USAID. The Ministry of Electricity plans to generate 10,000 MW by 2006, USAID said.

USAID plans to spend US $5.56 billion on electricity development, or close to one-third of the money coming from a spending bill approved by the US Congress in November for $18.6 billion. All told, the annual operating budget for the Electricity Ministry this year to repair and maintain
existing plants, and to build new ones, should be about $6 billion, according to ministry figures.


Work on a generating station at Haditha Dam in Haklanya, central Iraq, was recently completed, adding more than 350 MW to the grid, USAID reported. Two units of the Doura thermal power plants were repaired; and new generating capacity was built at the south Baghdad power plant. USAID built an independent power supply for Baghdad International Airport. The US military also said it would spend $300 million for generators to provide small amounts of additional power at plants in central Iraq by this summer.

USAID has converted the Al-Qudas power plan outside Baghdad from diesel oil to crude oil fuel. The use of crude oil will free up supplies of diesel, which is in short supply and is imported for transport and other uses, according to State Oil Marketing Organization figures (SOMO).

Diesel is needed to fuel trucks and smaller generators that contribute to economic growth, SOMO officials say. Al-Qudas had been consuming up to 15 percent of Iraq's available diesel. The combined capacity of the two units will reach approximately 160 MW, according to the US agency.


USAID installed an independent power supply at Umm Qasr, the country's only seaport, in an effort to boost trade. It also helped reconstruct a 400-kilovolt power line from Khor Az Zubayr in Basra Governorate to Nasiriyah. The Ministry of Electricity also has plans to complete a thermal power plant in Wasit in the southeast and a gas generating plant in Al-Kut. Both projects faltered under 12 years of international sanctions against the country.

In addition, USAID estimates that it will add 1,201 MW of power this summer through maintenance, repair and building new power plants. Repair of thermal units, turbines, generators and power lines is expected to produce another 2,152 MW.


Even though power is more plentiful in some parts of northern Iraq, an estimated 350 towns are still not connected to the power grid at all, according to power officials there. In Dahuk governorate in the far north, about 80 MW comes from Turkey. Further south, up to 10 MW comes from Mosul. But the needs of the entire governorate are around 200 MW.

Overall, power is on for less than half of the time. Connecting the two separate grids in the north would be expensive because the lines run on different voltages, according to power officials. United Nations agencies installed 149 small diesel generators with a capacity of 15 MW and a 29 MW generator across the north under the formerly UN-administered Oil-for-Food

USAID is repairing units of the Bayji in Salah al-Din thermal power plant. New power generation capacity was built at the Kirkuk power plant, USAID statistics show.


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