Electricity production cut in half in Kurdistan Region due to lack of fuel

27-01-2024 08:51
Repair of electric power lines in Duhok, October 2023. Photo; KRG Ministry of Electricity Facebook Page


Electricity production in the Kurdistan Region has been halved, despite double than normal demand due to cold weather. In a grim assessment, a government official expects the situation to get even worse.

According to monitoring by Peregraf, the public electricity supply in all four governorates has not reached ten hours per day this autumn and winter. Those who can afford it fill the gaps with electricity supplied by private generators.

"There is rarely six hours of electricity in 24 hours. The situation is very bad. There are about four hours in the morning and less at night," Rekar Mohammed, a resident of the Banaslawa neighborhood in Erbil, told Peregraf.

Mohammed said that his family pays approximately 22,000 Iraqi dinars ($15) per ampere of electricity from the private generators.

Dana Raza, a resident of Sulaimaniyah, told Peregraf that the supply is not even sufficient to run electric heaters in the winter, much less more power intensive appliances like boilers and washing machines. He said that he gets just seven hours of public electricity per day.

"We have no hope that the electricity supply will improve. We have raised this a lot in recent years and it has not helped," Raza said.

At the moment, the Kurdistan Region produces approximately 3,500 megawatts of electricity.

"We are currently at the highest demand of the year for electricity and the average consumption has exceeded 6,500 megawatts," Omed Ahmad, spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Electricity, told Peregraf.

"We can provide electricity to citizens for about six to seven hours in cold areas and about nine hours in hot areas. The electricity situation is likely to get worse if the season gets colder and demand increases," he continued, adding that the shortage is related to the KRG’s financial crisis and lack of fuel.

Most of the local power plants run on natural gas, though there are also major hydroelectric plants at Dukan and Darbandikhan. All of the 5,000 private generators run on diesel fuel, which is a major health and environmental hazard.

Ahmed said the government has installed a smart fuse board to increase the electricity supply, but it continues to decrease overall.

Electricity supply problems are hardly new in the Kurdistan Region, but have been a persistent issue for decades. Nevertheless, they have become acute in recent years.

For example, the Sulaimaniyah Gas Power Plant in Chamchamal has the capacity to produce 1,500 megawatts of electricity, but currently generates just 750 megawatts due to a lack of fuel.

Aram Osman, head of the Sulaimaniyah Gas Power Plant, declined to comment in response to questions from Peregraf, citing a lack of permission from the ministry to speak to the media.

The Kurdistan Region has large reserves of natural gas, which are being exploited primarily at the Khor Mor pumping facility. It is used domestically in the Kurdistan Region and may soon be sent to other parts of Iraq.

However, production at Khor Mor, which is located in an area controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has become a political issue with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which wants to export the gas internationally.

Peregraf sent questions about the lack of fuel available to the Kurdistan Region’s power plants to the KRG’s Ministry of Natural Resources and KRG Spokesperson Peshawa Hawramani, but they were not returned.

The lack of power in the Kurdistan Region stands in contrast to neighboring governorates, including Kirkuk and Nineveh, which are under the control of the federal government. While there are still problems there, the situation is relatively better.

Ahmad Aziz, who lives in Kirkuk's Darwaza neighborhood, said residents there have about 15 hours of electricity in winter.

"There is electricity at night from 11pm to 9am and sometimes there is electricity during the day," he said.

The KRG has denied that it supplies a portion of the power generated in the Kurdistan Region to neighboring governorates, as suggested in recent reporting.

Ahmad, the electricity ministry spokesperson, said that electricity supply is allocated depending on population. The number of hours available will increase during the spring and autumn when demand is lower.

The KRG has been installing smart meters in residential homes and businesses and developing a prepaid electricity system to confront the demand side of the problem. So far, more than 1.3 million smart meters have been installed, which means that 92% of subscribers will be part of the prepaid system.

Under this program, electricity customers will buy electricity on cards, with use progressively deducted from the balance. Customers already on this system are provided with 24-hour electricity.

The KRG has said that the new system will reduce the load on electricity transformers by half and provide continuous electricity to infrastructure like streetlights and water wells.

The electricity supply problem has motivated many residents to turn to solar panels in recent years.