Iraq in a tangle over US energy sanctions on Iran
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.
Outdated infrastructure, left, and chronic power shortages have forced Iraqis to buy electricity from private providers, who own generators, above.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