Iraqi power production wonÂ’t improve until 2011

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - An Iraqi official predicted that the country will not see major improvements in electricity production before 2011, citing poor security and a lack of funds and fuel.

Aziz Sultan, spokesman for the Electricity Ministry, said some areas of Baghdad were receiving only an hour of electricity per day. He cited attacks on infrastructure, lower fuel deliveries, and a lack of government funds.

"The power shortages nationwide will continue for the coming three years due to the ongoing sabotage and the unwillingness of foreign companies to work in a dangerous environment," Sultan said.

He added that most of the oil pipelines which deliver fuel to power stations run through "hot areas" where they are frequently subjected to insurgent attacks.

Many Iraqis rely on private generators for their power although rising fuel and maintenance costs have put a strain on many families.

Other people have resorted to private entrepreneurs who operate large generators in neighborhoods and supply power to customers.

But private generator operators often run into problems. With fuel shortages sending the cost of gasoline skyrocketing, they have been forced to raise prices even as they cut back on the number of hours of service they provide.

Sultan said Iraq's 27 million people need 9,500 megawatts of power daily to meet their minimum requirements, while the current production is about 4,000 megawatts.

He added that Iraq is importing 150 megawatts from Iran to cover some of Diyala province's needs.

For many Baghdad residents, the continued lack of progress in electricity supplies has been a source of huge disappointment.

"Everybody knows that the officials have been giving us false promises and procrastination for the past years," said Mohammed Abdullah, who pays about 6,000 dinars (US$50) every month to the neighborhood generator operator.

Naji Khazim, 43, another government employee, said his family gets only one hour of electricity a day in the Baldiyat neighborhood of eastern Baghdad.

"Electricity has become a lifelong burden on us. We do not know when this whirlpool is going to end. During Saddam (Hussein's) time, electricity was better than now."


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