Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Power Output Down In Iraq For End Of 2009

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) reports that power output was down for the last three months of 2009. In the 4th quarter of last year Iraq produced 5,285 megawatts or 126,843 megawatt-hours per day. That compared to 138,475 megawatt-hours per day in the 3rd quarter, which was an all time high since the 2003 invasion. At the same time demand dropped by 8% as Iraq entered into the colder months of the year. Reduced output from power plants was the cause of the decreased production. This was the first time that electricity output decreased since the beginning of 2008.

The Electricity Ministry plans to boost production with a General Electric (GE) and Siemens deal to buy new generators. In the last three years the Ministry already increased the country’s feasible capacity by 40% from 8,500 megawatts at the end of 2006 to 12,000 megawatts by the end of 2009. Feasible capacity is how much a generator can produce given the environment it works in. The GE and Siemens deal is meant to double feasible capacity over the next five years.

The SIGIR is unsure whether this deal will allow the Ministry to meet demand however. Iraq’s power plants have historically operated at much lower levels than they can. For example, Iraq has the capacity to produce 15,527 megawatts, but its feasible capacity is 11,968 megawatts, and its actual production was only 5,285 megawatts at the end of 2009. Fuel shortages to run power plants, aging infrastructure, and the lack of maintenance are three major causes for the difference between the feasible and actual production. Another problem is that demand has consistently increased since 2003. The government has large subsidies on power, which encourages consumption because the public doesn’t have to pay the actual cost. As electricity production has increased, so has demand. Finally, the power grid needs to be upgraded because it cannot handle a large increase in capacity, but there are now plans to renovate it.

In the latest survey, only 18% of Iraqis were somewhat or very satisfied with the amount of power they received. Despite the large increase in electricity production since the overthrow of Saddam, demand has sky rocketed as well increasing dissatisfaction. The government is making moves to close the gap, but the institutional and structural problems outlined above make it difficult for Iraq to produce what it could. Those issued need to be addressed otherwise the government is wasting a huge amount of its investment on new generators.


Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 1/30/10


Don Cox said...

Have the attacks on the power lines stopped?

My impression is that while some of these were sabotage, in many cases the problem was theft of cables for scrap.

It's no use trying to upgrade the infrastructure if people keep stealing it.

Am I right in thinking that Iraqis pay nothing at all for stste-generated electricity (as opposed to that from local generators)?

Joel Wing said...


I can't remember any reports of attacks on power lines for quite some time. They were definitely targeted at the beginning of the insurgency.

The line between insurgents and gangs often doesn't exist. There were criminals who joined militant groups and continued on with their criminal activites at the same time, and militants that turned to crime to fund their fighting. Especially now that fighting has largely subsided many militants have turned into gangs for their livelihood because they have nothing else.

As for paying for public power I can't remeber now off the top of my head.

Ali Wasati said...

I know from my family in Iraq that there are many local generators, and they chatge very high prices.

Many people also get their houses connected to main power lines illegally.

Power is a serious problem in Iraq. You can be sure that any government that succeeds in improving the power will win the election that follows.

joel my dad is actually the Projrct manager for implementing IT security and cameras in the new Erbil power station. Do you know much about it, and wheher the power will be for All iraqis or just KRG

Joel Wing said...


The KRG opened two new power plants in the past couple years. The Irbil plant opened in 2008 that your dad is at, and another in Sulaymaniya in 2009. From what I've read both are just for the KRG. Under the GE/Siemens deal, every province except for the 3 Kurdish ones is due to get at least one new generator, but the problem as I noted, is that the infrastructure may not be able to handle this new load of power.

Ali said...

So Joel would you think if some how they can upgrade the infastructure, would that mean the new amount of pwoer would be enough for 24 hrs non stop, or would there still be power cuts?

Joel Wing said...

I think it's more than just the infrastructure although that would be a huge move in the right direction. Power plants don't always get the fuel to run them. Due to all the sanctions and wars there is a really bad culture of not doing proper maintenance as well that leads to breakdowns. The subsidies on power from the government also means there's no real incentives for Iraqis to cut back on consumption either.

If they get all the power plants up and running, and rennovate the power grid output would see a huge increase, but I think those other issues would still mean Iraq wouldn't be generating electricity up to its potential, and there would still be some shortages.

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