Regional

Iraq signs electricity contracts with South Korean companies

AMMAN: A group of South Korean companies signed contracts to build 25 power stations in Iraq, an Electricity Ministry spokesman said, as the Arab country seeks to end chronic outages that have hampered its reconstruction.

Iraqi Electricity Minister Raad Shallal signed the contracts with the companies Wednesday in Baghdad, Masaab Serri said in Baghdad.

The spokesman didn’t identify the companies, which will add total generating capacity of 2,500 megawatts. The ministry will sign contracts next week for an additional 25 power plants, he said Thursday.

“These are all within the plan to build 50 new power plants at a cost of $6.25 billion to generate 5,000 megawatts,” Serri said in an interview.

Shallal said on March 23 that Caterpillar Inc. and Man SE of Germany are two of the companies due to sign contracts for some of the 50 new facilities that the ministry expects will start operating in the summer of 2012, the minister said. It has not specified the fuels they will use.

The planned investments are a cornerstone of the Seoul government’s effort to end power shortages completely by 2015.

Iraq’s electricity plants and distribution network have suffered from years of war, sanctions, insurgent attacks and under-investment.

Blackouts are hurting the economy, and violent street protests over unreliable electricity supplies have made the issue a top concern for the government.

Bigger Plants to Come

In addition to the 50 power stations, each with an average capacity of 100 megawatts, the government invited bids in December for the construction of four larger plants that would raise generating capacity by a combined 2,750 megawatts. Those bids will be for a 1,250-megawatt plant near Basra, and three plants of 500 megawatts each in the cities of Samawa, Diwaniya and Amarah.

Power supply this summer, the peak season for electricity consumption, will improve to an average of eight hours a day nationwide, up from about six hours a day last summer, Shallal said last month.

Iraq produces 7,000 megawatts and imports an additional 1,000 megawatts, while demand totals about 14,000 megawatts, he said.

The country imports electricity mainly from neighboring Iran and Turkey, which has also sent two ships to southern Iraq where they serve as floating power plants, Serri said on Jan. 4. Iraq is in negotiations about importing electricity via Syria using a regional grid.

Former Electricity Minister Karim Wahid resigned last June after two people were killed while rioting over summer blackouts and power rationing. Wahid said at the time that his efforts to tackle the problem had failed because of a lack of money and fuel.

After forming his new government in December, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged to address the electricty problem.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 08, 2011, on page 5.

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