In terms of demand and capacity, what was the electricity situation like in the Kurdistan Region when you were appointed Minister of Electricity in 2009?
The situation was entirely different than it is today. Internal generation only satisfied a small amount of our power demand. Instead, a small amount of imported electricity from Turkey augmented our reliance on the federal network controlled by Baghdad. The Iraqi network regularly suffered from shutdowns and was prone to frequent blackouts. In the month that I was appointed, there were 15 blackouts in the Kurdistan Region network alone. These ranged from 3 hours in length to 24 hours in length. By the end of January 2010, we had already solved 90% of the shutdowns. By March 2010, the issue was completely resolved and there were no more blackouts. In fact, since that time, there have been no blackouts in the Kurdistan Region. I am quite proud of that fact because it correlates directly with our improved ability to supply power.
How have demand and capacity evolved since 2009?
In 2009, the maximum demand was approximately 2,096 MW; today, it is around 3,750 MW. This represents a total increase of 1,700 MW, and a 15% increase annually. In 2009, the average of distributed power was around 809 MW; today, it is approximately 2,500 MW. This represents an increase of roughly 1,700 MW. All of this power is derived from internal generation; we are importing no power from either the Iraqi network or abroad. In 2007, we were receiving approximately 190 MW from the Iraqi grid. We were able to very quickly curb that number so as to promote generation within the Region. Today, our peak demand (which does vary from day to day) is generally around 3,000 MW. If we include the calculated figures for 2013, this number increases to 3,700 MW. The number of consumers has obviously increased dramatically as well. In 2009, there were a total of around 705,000 consumers. Today, there are approximately 1.1 million. Further infrastructure development has added to the demand. For example, street lighting was previously very limited. Now, we have around 700 kilometers of well-lit streets.
How much of this growth and evolution is a product of the MOE’s strategic development plan?
We have short, medium, and long term plans for all the sectors that come under our jurisdiction. These include generation, transmission, distribution, administration, and management. Increasing the supply of electricity for our people was part of our long-term plan. The average available power in the summer of 2009 was around 12 hours and 46 minutes per day. This summer, we had approximately 23 hours and 30 minutes per day. We have established strong management and oversight structures in the MOE, and all of our employees are familiar with their individual responsibilities and duties. Each directorate within the MOE has its own operating system with established practices, and they are therefore able to function with maximum efficiency.
Looking to the future, can you tell us about your ministry’s plans in terms of specific goals and objectives?
An issue that we are still combatting concerns electricity transmission and distribution; specifically, we need to upgrade our voltage transmission abilities. This means expanding even our newest lines [132 KV] to 400 KV for interconnection between the governorates and the other systems in both greater Iraq and the surrounding countries of the region. Establishing 400 KV lines is equivalent to creating highways for the distribution of power. We have two 400 KV substations currently under construction, and there are plans to either repair or modernize two others. In addition, our government is also in discussions with Japan International Cooperation Agency to have them fund the construction of two additional facilities. All of these projects are being pursued with an eye towards our exporting power in the near future.
Are there other big projects in which you all expect to have further collaboration with international organizations or companies?
We recently signed a contract with Siemens for the construction of a large-scale communication and distribution system for the entire Region. This will include three distribution centers (one in each of Kurdistan’s three governorates) and then one central dispatch facility in Erbil. That contract, which was signed last October, has a budget of $70 million and a targeted completion date of 4 years. So, that project is aimed at further developing our distribution and transmission capabilities. That said, we are also working on conservation efforts as well. We are planning to implement the “Smart Water” project, which will monitor consumption of both electricity and drinking water. It would also institute revenue and billing systems, and therefore help to eliminate unlicensed connections. This project has been in discussions for over a year, and is now in the tendering process. Hopefully, a contract will be signed very soon. This endeavor will be the first of its kind in Iraq and potentially even in the Middle East, and will go a long way towards curbing excessive usage of power and water. Our estimates indicate that the project, which also calls for a review of the structure of the tariff system in the Kurdistan Region, could generate revenue of over $1 billion.