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Cry Me A Riverbend II

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Electricity situation in Iraq

Riverbend's blog has become little more than an intermittent status report on the electricity supply at her house. A discussion in the comments section of the last post has inspired me to post about Iraq's power supply now.

The unrealists are crowing all over the blogosphere about a statement from Gen. Bostwick in January. He said that Iraq's base power capacity is currently at 3600MW.
The unrealists are jumping on this. They say,

See?! The US has been in Iraq for 22 months and the power capacity is less than under Saddam!!! It was 4400MW under Saddam, and now it is only 3600MW!

Based on the cited article, I can only assume the unrealists are attempting to mislead (as typical). The famous article states:

Bostwick blamed the shortfall on sabotage and the deterioration of Iraq's electricityi nfrastructure under Saddam's rule. Through October, power generation was at 5,600 megawatts, but the electricity supply shrunk when Electricity Minister Ayad Al-Samarrai opted to carry out large-scale repairs to the aging network that month, Bostwick said.

Bostwick compared Iraq's electricity infrastructure to an old car. "You can choose to drive it until it breaks, but when it breaks, there will be multiple problems."

The US and Iraqi authorities hope the repairs will be completed before June when the temperatures soar, he said.

I pointed out that the biggest slow-down in the power situation, so I have been told by responsible soldiers, is deliberate sabotage by the terrorists and that the Iraqi power grid was in a seriously decayed state and generally "held together with chewing gum." Cpt Teeg responded:

I stumbled on your blog and you are absolutely right in regards to the Iraqi power grid. I am a civil affairs soldier who spent 13 months in Iraq. The power grid was basically held together by chewing gum as you so eloquently described.

Saddam used the power grid (power on/power off) as punishment for Shiitesand Sunnis alike if they did not tow the party line. It was never made a huge issue because the alternative punishment was death/torture/family rape and execution. If you travel just 2K outside Baghdad into the suburbs (slums) most places hadn't seen power since the last Shiite uprising in 1991. ...I am a Democrat, not a huge fan of Bush but am smart enough to see the facts. Like I said, I was there...I saw. Be well
- CPT Teeg

Thanks Captain, and thank you for your service to us.

As for the state of the power grid this summer, I read this article in the
July 2004 issue of International Water Power and Dam Construction Magazine which confirms Cpt Teeg's report. It said:

[Iraq's] electrical generating base was often deliberately kept low during Saddam Hussein’s reign, as electricity was one of those perks that could be favourably rationed, because the base capacity, 4000MW, was so inadequate.

Did you catch that? They say Iraq's pre-war base capacity was 4000MW, not 4400MW! What's with that?

The article continues:

Typically, parts of Baghdad, Fallujah and Tikrit would receive electricity up to 24 hours a day. Everyone else was getting between 0 and 10 hours. Indeed since the early 1990s, the Kurdish Region to the north was entirely cut off from the central electricity grid.

...in July 2003, one of the first steps of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the former Electricity Minister, Dr Ayham al-Samarrai, was to equalise the distribution of electricity across the country.

This agrees with Ali's post at Iraq The Model when he accused Riverbend of distortion and outright lying about the power situation in Baghdad. (Ali now has a separate blog at Free Iraqi).

The article then says:

It had been hoped that by the changeover date of 30 June 2004, 6000MW of capacity would be installed. Unfortunately due to the uprising in April, the ‘Spring Maintenance Programme’ was significantly curtailed and the actual figure was more like 4500MW.

It is a great article. I recommend you check it out. It was quite optimistic about Iraq's power capacity in the near term, and since the capacity was up to 5600MW by October, I'd say their predictions were realistic. Now Iraq apparently has to take the next step to modernizing their grid to be dependable.

To be fair, I have heard hearsay that there is also an organized crime problem with the stealing and black-marketing of copper cabling. I don't know if this is true. If anyone can provide first hand confirmation of this, I'll report it.


  • Great research.......

    and to any others that still doubt this should clear up alot of things.

    By Blogger kender, at 12:02 PM  

  • Bruno....please blog. PLease please please start a blog. I want to comment there. I would pay money to comment on your thoughts. Pretty please with a cherry on top?

    By Blogger kender, at 12:08 PM  

  • Good one, CMARII

    By Blogger Louise, at 6:08 PM  

  • CMAR2 --

    My point on the previous thread about the electrical output is: the Iraqis managed to get the grid up in a few months. Under an inefficient dictatorship. Under sanctions. One would imagine that a “hyper power” like the USA could not only match that effort, but indeed make the Iraqi efforts look pathetic by comparison. One would *imagine* huge Lockheed jets bulging with auxiliary generators and parts flocking to Iraq, and a surge of electricity illuminating the bright new future of freedom lovin’ Iraqis and Americans everywhere. (Tear trickles down cheek … *sniff* … this is so moving …)

    Yet … about two YEARS down the line, electrical output is less than the lowest 4000 MW output of Hussein’s regime. The fact that a bunch of Iraqis with chewing gum managed to make the concentrated might of the USA look ridiculous must rankle, I understand. (Especially since insurgent attacks are a *minor* part of the story.)

    By Blogger richsanter, at 3:07 AM  

  • What conclusions can we draw from this? Two, as far as I can see. (1) The US is frickin’ useless. Well, it’s a possibility. (2) Companies like Bechtel are so eager to completely replace the entire system in order to make mega bucks that in the interim period (2 years and counting) Iraqis must just bite the bullet. Was it not possible to call in the original French and Russian manufacturers and sort out the problem immediately, with the proper spares? (What! And get in the way of turning Iraq into a client state, not to mention fat profits? I think not. Besides, those Frenchies must be punished.)

    This is naturally completely ignoring the fact that it was US bombing and US manipulation of sanctions that resulted in the current, pathetic situation. 9000 MW is the output of Iraq under Saddam; 4000 – 4400 MW under sanctions. 3500 - 3600 MW is the current production, no matter what your past output peaks and future projections say. Pretty sad, 2 years down the line.

    By Blogger richsanter, at 3:08 AM  

  • “To be fair, I have heard hearsay that there is also an organized crime problem with the stealing and black-marketing of copper cabling. I don't know if this is true.”

    Well, it was true that so much copper was stolen from Iraq during the looting that it dented the world price. (People like me blame the US, of course, since having decided to ‘take’ the country, security was/is YOUR problem.) Probably a lot of the ‘attacks’ on the system are indeed these gangs that are still operating. That is a problem that will stick around for YEARS. South Africa, for example, still has a large problem with cable theft.

    Finally, to top off this interesting discussion we are having, I would just like to point out that water and electrical denial to cities are also employed by the freedom loving, civilian – protecting USA. Services have been cut several times to cities like Ramadi and Fallujah as part of punishing them for resisting occupation. The times change, but the tactics don’t, huh?

    By Blogger richsanter, at 3:09 AM  

  • Aaah, Kender, I'm sorry I don't have the time. I'd welcome your spam, of course ;)

    Hey, I had to create a blog to get my name, if you can find it feel free to drop insults there. I'm not even sure what I called it, or I'd help you out.

    By Blogger richsanter, at 3:11 AM  

  • http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2005/02/index.html


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:46 PM  

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