Iraq is set to import 500 megawatts of electricity from Sunni Arab gulf countries before next summer, Iraqi Ministry of Electricity spokesperson a told state newspaper on Thurday.
Haider al-Abadi, spokesperson for Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity revealed that Iraq has signed a deal with the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) for electricity imports in a Thursday report published by state-owned newspaper al-Sabaah.
The agreement is to “establish two power transmission lines of extreme pressure 400 KV, with the Gulf Interconnection Authority shouldering the cost of the building of the two lines”.
The business deal follows pleas from the United States for Iraq to wean itself off of Iranian electricity imports.
According to al-Abadi, the two transmission lines will span 300 kilometers across Iraq and Kuwait.
The idea of interconnectivity between regional countries’ electricity grids was first touted by outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in July.
The move will allow Iraq to initially import 500 megawatts of electricity at “competitive prices.”
Iraq has long suffered from chronic outages and shortages of electricity, in a country where summer temperatures reach 50 degrees Celsius.
Electricity shortages have pushed protesters to take to the streets, especially in the summer of 2018, to demand better electricity and services.
War, corruption, insecurity, and lack of investment have altogether contributed to a deteriorating grid, leaving Iraqis at times with just five hours of national electricity per day. Privately owned generators set up in neighborhoods try to supplement the lost hours, making Iraqis pay twice for electricity.
To make up for the shortage in electricity production, Iraq has been importing electricity and gas to power its electricity stations from neighboring Iran, much to the ire of Washington, which has imposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.
Iran exports 1200-1500 megawatts of electricity to Iraq on a daily basis, in addition to 38 million cubic meters of natural gas to feed several of Iraq’s power stations, according to Sayyid Hamid Hosseini, secretary-general of Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce.
The US has long hoped for Iraq to wean itself off of the Iranian imports, which are a source of cash for the regime it has sanctioned.
In the summer of 2018, Iraq did report progress in the electricity sector with peak production previously unseen in the country. Nevertheless, it was still below demand.
Iraq has also signed deals with the German giant Siemens and the US Giant General Electric to overhaul its outdated grid.