The pulling out of the national grid mirrors that national disintegration into areas interested in their own interest rather than a national interest. The situation is as if Iraq were suffering from an environmental disaster that destroyed their infrastructure except in Iraq's case the disaster is continuing and ongoing with no end in sight. In the Green Zone however life goes on more or less as normal except for mortar attacks.
Iraq's national power grid nearing collapse
By Ryan Lenz
The Associated Press
BAGHDAD — Iraq's power grid is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid, officials said Saturday.
Electricity Ministry spokesman Aziz al-Shimari said power generation nationally is only meeting half the demand, and there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days.
Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer — when average daily temperatures reach between 110 and 120 degrees — and now are down to just a few hours a day, if that. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations.
Karbala province south of Baghdad has been without power for three days, causing water mains to go dry in the provincial capital, the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
Electricity shortages are a perennial problem in Iraq, even though it sits atop one of the world's largest crude-oil reserves. The national power grid became decrepit under Saddam Hussein because his regime was under U.N. sanctions after the Gulf War and had trouble buying spare parts or equipment to upgrade the system.
One of the biggest problems facing the national grid is the move by provinces to disconnect their power plants from the system, reducing the overall amount of electricity being generated for the entire country. Provinces say they have no choice because they are not getting as much electricity in return for what they produce, mainly because the capital requires so much power.
"Many southern provinces such as Basra, Diwaniyah, Nassiriyah, Babil have disconnected their power plants from the national grid. Northern provinces, including Kurdistan, are doing the same," al-Shimari said. "We have absolutely no control over some areas in the south," he added.
"The national grid will collapse if the provinces do not abide by rules regarding their share of electricity. Everybody will lose and there will be no electricity winner," al-Shimari said.
He complained that the central government was unable to do anything about provincial power stations pulling out of the national system, or the fact some provinces were failing to take themselves off the supply grid once they had consumed their daily ration of electricity.
Najaf provincial spokesman Ahmed Deibel confirmed today that the gas turbine generator there had been removed from the national grid. He said the plant produced 50 megawatts while the province needed at least 200 megawatts.
Compounding the problem, al-Shimari said, there are 17 high-tension lines running into Baghdad but only two were operational. The rest had been sabotaged.
"When we fix a line, the insurgents attack it the next day," he said.
Fuel shortages are also a major problem. In Karbala, provincial spokesman Ghalib al-Daami said a 50-megawatt power station had been shut down because of a lack of fuel, causing the entire province to be without water and electricity for the past three days.
He said sewage was seeping above ground in nearly half the provincial capital because pump trucks used to clean septic tanks have been unable to operate due to gasoline shortages. The sewage was causing a health threat and contaminating local crops.
Many people who normally would rely on small home generators for electricity can't afford to buy fuel. Gasoline prices have shot up to nearly $5 a gallon, Karbala residents say, a price that puts the fuel out of range for all but the wealthy.
Iraq has the world's third-largest proven oil reserves, behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. But oil production has been hampered by insurgent and saboteur attacks, ranging from bombing pipelines to siphoning off oil. Dilapidated infrastructure has also hindered refining, forcing Iraq to import large amounts of kerosene and other oil products.
The electricity problems come as leaders are trying to deal with a political crisis that erupted when the country's largest bloc of Sunni political parties withdrew from the government.