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Baghdad Down To Four Hours Of Electricity Daily (Sept. 2005)

About six million households have suffered regular power shortages since April 30 when insurgents attacked a major power plant supplying the capital, causing serious problems for families without access to private generators.

For three consecutive days, residents of the capital, Baghdad, have received less than one hour of electricity per day. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Electricity said it could take a week or more to restore the power supply to previous levels of about six hours daily.

With summer beginning and temperatures rising, residents are expressing frustration. "I've lost all the meat I had in my refrigerator because my generator's broken," said Baghdad shopkeeper Ahmed el-Zein. "Insurgents attack the plants to hurt the government, but it's the innocent population that suffers."

While hospitals and emergency infrastructure are usually equipped with their own generators, universities and schools -- many of which have been without electricity since April 30 -- are not. Even the so-called "Green Zone," in which the national government is headquartered, has been subject to frequent power outages.

Some aggravated residents place the blame squarely on the U.S. military, which has occupied the country since early 2003, and the slow pace of U.S.-led reconstruction efforts. "U.S. reconstruction companies haven't been unable to restore the power levels maintained under the Saddam Hussein regime," said Mahmoud Hassan, a professor of electrical engineering at Baghdad University. "This has shown up their incompetence ever since they invaded our country."

In March 2004, one year into the occupation, residents of Baghdad could expect around 16 hours of electricity a day. Two years later, however, this dropped to a mere six hours daily. "At present, Iraq is producing slightly less than 6,000 megawatts per day, which usually falls to about 5,000 in summer due to high consumption rates caused by extensive use of air-conditioning," said senior electricity ministry official Salah Obaid.

A growing market for consumer goods has put more refrigerators and air conditioners into Iraqi homes than ever before. This has led government experts to predict that peak daily demand in the months of July and August -- when temperatures soar to 50 degrees centigrade -- could reach as high as 9,000 megawatts.

Local engineers say at least two years and massive expenditures will be required to achieve the minimum power levels necessary to support Iraq's 26-million strong population. "Billions of dollars will be required to supply sufficient power," said Hassan. "As for the current shortage, this was the result of bad management -- not solely the result of insurgency attacks."

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Albion Monitor   May 3, 2006   (

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