Iraq in a tan­gle over US en­ergy sanc­tions on Iran

The National - News - - NEWS - Agence France-Presse

Iraq’s elec­tric­ity in­dus­try is plan­ning an over­haul to counter US de­mands to halt Ira­nian en­ergy im­ports and avoid more protests over power cuts.

The Min­istry of Elec­tric­ity, un­der new min­is­ter Luay Al Kha­teeb, is ex­plor­ing op­tions in­clud­ing re­vamp­ing sta­tions and lines to cut waste, im­port­ing power and im­prov­ing bill col­lec­tion.

Bagh­dad hopes it will gen­er­ate enough elec­tric­ity to feed de­mand by sum­mer, when cuts can leave mil­lions with­out power for up to 20 hours a day.

But it has an ear­lier dead­line to meet. When Wash­ing­ton reim­posed sanc­tions on Tehran this month over Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme, it granted Iraq a 45-day waiver to come up with a plan to wean it­self off Ira­nian elec­tric­ity and gas.

Iraq pipes in up to 28 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of Ira­nian gas a day to feed its power sta­tions and di­rectly im­ports up to 1,300 megawatts of Ira­nian-pro­duced elec­tric­ity.

Now, Bagh­dad’s power min­istry has out­lined a plan to end re­liance on Tehran within 18 months and re­solve decade-old prob­lems, spokesman Musab Al Mu­dar­ris said.

Iraq has 153 bil­lion bar­rels of proven crude re­serves, but it needs higher-qual­ity fuel and gas for power tur­bines.

Mr Al Mu­dar­ris said although Iraq could do with­out Iran’s elec­tric­ity, it needed Ira­nian gas un­til it could ex­tract its own or cap­ture flares from oil drilling. Us­ing its own fuel and Ira­nian gas, Iraq can pro­duce about 16,000 megawatts – far be­low its de­mand of about 24,000MW, which can jump to 30,000MW in sum­mer.

Mr Al Kha­teeb also asked Siemens and GE for plans to boost power gen­er­a­tion by sum­mer.

An­other min­is­te­rial ini­tia­tive in­volves swap­ping Ira­nian power for im­ports from other neigh­bours, Mr Al Mu­dar­ris said, in­clud­ing 300MW each from Turkey, Jor­dan and Kuwait, plus Saudi so­lar power.

Bagh­dad also wants to re­cover money lost by the min­istry’s poor col­lec­tion ser­vice.

“We are los­ing about 60 per cent of our rev­enue to peo­ple who don’t pay. If we can cut those losses, we can stop re­ly­ing on Iran,” Mr Al Mu­dar­ris said.

Last year, Iraq be­gan pri­vatis­ing by hir­ing col­lec­tion ser­vices to en­sure house­holds paid their en­ergy bills.

AFP

Out­dated in­fra­struc­ture, left, and chronic power short­ages have forced Iraqis to buy elec­tric­ity from pri­vate providers, who own gen­er­a­tors, above. Iraq hopes it can gen­er­ate enough to meet de­mand by sum­mer, when cuts leave mil­lions with­out power

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