Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Electricity Output Reaches Post-Invasion High, But System Still Plagued By Problems

The Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction reported that for the fifth straight quarter Iraq’s average electricity supply increased from August to October 2009. For the 3rd quarter of 2009 Iraq produced 6,439 megawatts, a post-invasion high. That was a 10% increase from the 2nd quarter. In 2007 Iraq produced 4,488 megawatts, with 4,198 coming from the Ministry of Electricity, and 290 being imported. In 2009 the Ministry was responsible for 5,209 megawatts, 669 megawatts came from other countries, and 560 were from private generators. Iraq saw a 1,951 megawatt increase over those two years.

The growth in power supply comes from multiple sources. Half of the increase came from working on existing power plants at a cost of more than $2 billion in U.S. reconstruction aid since 2003. 29% of the increase was from two new private power plants opening in the Kurdistan Regional Government. 19% of this quarter's increase came from importing electricity from Iran and Turkey. In 2007 Turkey was the main supplier, providing 60% of imports, but since then Iran was eclipsed them, now accounting for 80%. The Electricity Ministry has also been able to make some small increases in its capacity. It has added two power plants on boats in Basra in 2009 for example, run by a Turkish company. They have a combined capacity of 250 megawatts.

The Ministry has bigger plans in store as well. In 2009 they finally got funding to buy turbines from General Electric and Siemens. These will be installed in twenty locations throughout the country. Every province except the three in Kurdistan will get at least one new power plant out of the deal. Construction is expected to begin in late 2010 or early 2011, and the new capacity will come on line in 2-6 years. When finished, the turbines will add an estimated 10,000 megawatts. There is a major problem with this plan however. Iraq's power grid cannot handle this increase. The transmission and distribution systems need to be renovated, but there are no plans to do so. There are also questions about whether the government will be able to provide fuel for all of these new plants adequately. The Electricity's Ministry promises therefore, may never be fulfilled. Baghdad will also have a hard time coming up with any extra money as it is facing a second year of budget deficits due to moderate oil prices, which provide almost all of its revenue.

Despite the recent increases, the national grid still does not meet the country’s demands. The Special Inspector General believes that the gap between supply and demand is twice what it was in 2003, although it has been slightly reduced since 2007. Based upon estimates it’s believed that the Electricity Ministry served 69% of the national demand in the 3rd quarters of 2009. In the 3rd quarter of 2007, it only met 54%. In terms of the provinces, Sulaymaniya, Basra, Irbil, and Diyala in that order did the best supplying electricity, meeting anywhere from 83% to 99% of demand. That’s because those governorates either have their own power plants or import large amounts from Iran. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Wasit, 51%, Maysan, 53%, Babil 56%, Ninewa and Najaf at 58%, do the worst serving their people. Because Iraqis cannot rely upon the government for its power, most rely upon private generators.

Electricity Supply And Demand By Provinces

Province
Avg. Daily Electricity Load Served (MW)
Avg. Daily Estimated Electricity Demand (MW)
Avg. Daily Demand Met
Sulaymaniya
352
357
99%
Basra
806
929
87%
Irbil
356
411
86%
Diyala
196
236
83%
Dhi Qar
289
405
71%
Salahaddin
275
385
71%
Tamim
222
325
68%
Muthanna
137
202
68%
Anbar
219
329
67%
Baghdad
1,718
2,571
67%
Dohuk
132
203
65%
Karbala
164
273
60%
Qadisiyah
150
253
59%
Najaf
216
375
58%
Ninewa
491
851
58%
Babil
240
425
56%
Maysan
145
273
53%
Wasit
155
304
51%

Iraq’s generators also do not operate up to their capabilities. Nameplate capacity is how much a generator should be able to produce in ideal conditions. Feasible capacity is how much it can produce given the actual conditions. Iraq has a nameplate generating capacity of 15,300 megawatts, and a feasible capacity of 11,150. Both were 4% increases from the 2nd quarter of 2009. However in the 3rd quarter Iraq only operated at 38% of nameplate capacity and 52% of feasible capacity. The Qudas power plant in Baghdad for example, which the U.S. spent $250 million to renovate, has a nameplate capacity of 910 megawatts, but only averages 429 megawatts of actual production, 47% of its nameplate capacity.

After the overthrow of Saddam, Iraqis went on a buying spree of consumer electronics. This has greatly increased demand for power, which has not been met by the increase in production. The lack of adequate funds, the inability of the Electricity Ministry to spend what it gets, not enough skilled and trained personnel, poor maintenance and aging equipment, along with subsidized energy and a large black market in generators encourages use rather than conservation. These all mean that demand will continue to increase in the near future, and even with the new power plants and renovations, the power system will still probably be running a deficit.

SOURCES

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, "Quarterly Report to the United States Congress," 10/30/09

3 comments:

Iraqi Mojo said...

Wow Sulaymaniya is meeting close 100% of demand. That's impressive. Also impressive is Basra's score, considering its terrible condition in the 90s. Good news!

Joel Wing said...

Sulaymaniya opened its own power plant and the Electricity Ministry got that Turkish company to set up a generator on a boat off the port to provide power to Basra, which probably accounts for their good numbers on meeting demand.

Anonymous said...

It's not entirely accurate to refer to a "national grid". The distribution system in the Kurdistan Region runs on different standards (different voltage) than the distribution system in the rest of the country. So capacity developed in the KRG is not easily shared with the rest of the country (and vice versa).

These standards were set before 1991.

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