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The Electricity Sector Program

Electricity is the fuel of the Iraqi economy. It affects every job in every industry, and drives the national capacity to produce oil and increase national revenue. A robust supply of electricity boosts economic expansion, jobs creation, and increases the quality of life and security of all Iraqi citizens. Today, most Iraqis have limited or no access to essential power services due to power facilities damage suffered during the war, and current terrorist activities that threaten remaining facilities and the vital supply lines that provide fuel to power plants. Most of the country currently receives power for only a few hours a day, in an alternating distribution schedule of 2 to 3 hours at a time. A prime objective is to restore Iraq’s electricity supply to pre-war levels to achieve the overarching goals of:

  • providing better security through employment and improved quality of life;
  • boosting the economy through reliable electricity supplies to industry. And through their achievements:
  • encouraging the democratic processes in all governorates.
The Project and Contracting Office Electricity Sector, along with the Department of Defense and numerous international design-build and local Iraqi contractors, are focusing the reconstruction efforts in four main areas:
  • Generation
  • Transmission
  • Distribution
  • Electricity Communications and Controls

The generation program is meeting head-on the major challenge of rectifying the dilapidated conditions of most power plants. For many years plants lacked proper maintenance. Normal plant life is 25 years to 30 years in ideal conditions. Most of the existing Iraqi plants are over 25 years old. During the last two years of Saddam’s rule these plants received little or no maintenance, or replenishment of vital spare parts needed to prevent significant periods of downtime.

Current Iraqi generation capability is about 5,300 MW. The actual output is about 4,200 due to fuel shortages, terrorist attacks, and planned maintenance. The peak demand is 7,500 MW and climbing due to the growing sales of electric appliances, a result of the lifting of central controls and trade isolation.
Planned new generation capacity by projects will add 1,600 MW. Key projects include:
  • Project Phoenix, which will continue the rehabilitation of 25 generation units throughout the country, with the potential to add over 500 MW to the national electric grid;
  • the Northern Generation Project, which will add 100 MW to the grid in the north;
  • and the Khor Al Zubair New Generation project, which will add 230 MW in the south.
The Sector is also involved in establishing sustainability measures to allow the Ministry of Electricity engineers to build on the reconstruction efforts and to continue with a program that is safe, reliable, and resilient; and that will effectively maintain an abundant supply of energy to all of the country. These measures include:
  • training and development programs for Iraqi engineers in the use of the new facilities;
  • a Spare Parts Program to provide the vital back-up equipment and parts;
  • maintenance and inventory programs using a state-of the-art computerized maintenance and management system (MAXIMO);
  • a complete update of the Ministry’s specifications and QA procedures to equip them with the tools to more effectively develop future projects themselves;
  • capacity development efforts to attract foreign direct investment in future power infrastructure development projects.

The transmission system provides bulk power from the power stations to the distribution networks. One can think of the transmission system as the critical arteries of a power circulatory system, transmitting the life energy to individual cells of homes, factories, schools and hospitals.

Pre-1990 Iraq had a strong transmission system. Vandalism and looting, poor maintenance, and severe overloading of transformers have drastically degraded the system. Even today, we are witnessing further damage from saboteurs and thieves, who have destroyed towers and stolen copper wiring from the transmission lines that link Baghdad with the rest of the country.

The program primarily focuses on rebuilding the damaged lines and substations, relieving overloaded transformers, and strengthening the system to accommodate new generation.

The transmission program consists of the construction of new or rehabilitation of existing over fifty 400 and 132 kV substations, and about 2,200 high tension towers and 10,000km of 400kV and 132kV overhead transmission line (OHL). Key projects include:
  • Al Ameen 400 kV substation
  • Haditha-Qaim new 400kV OHL
  • Rasheed 400kV substation
  • Baiji – Haditha 400kV OHL rehabilitation

The distribution network moves power “the last mile” to the end users. It includes the 33kV substations that collect and step-down the power from the 132kV OHL, the smaller 11kV neighborhood substations, and the underground and overhead cables connecting to individual homes and businesses.

Iraq distribution networks are unsafe and overloaded. Blackouts from local network failures range from 6 to 10 days at a time, overwhelming maintenance crews. Network connections lack for 4 million homes, while patchwork repairs of unsafe, unauthorized wiring between buildings are quite common. Ever-increasing demand exacerbates the situation as the economy expands.

The distribution network program includes the construction of over 150 new or rehabilitated 33kV substations, and several hundred 11kV substations countrywide. It also includes the feeder work: the laying and hanging of underground and overhead cable right to the end users.

An interesting part of this program is the use of an innovative contracting method designed to expedite the work and increase the local employment on distribution projects. The Rapid Contracting Initiative encompasses over one-half of the entire distribution program and is now ramping up in the construction of hundreds of local contracts for feeder work. The program will realize significant benefits in cost efficiencies, allowing construction of more projects within allotted budgets, and increased utilization of local labor over that of conventional contracting methods. Early estimates show about a threefold increase in local employment from RCI work.

Electricity Communications and Controls
A centralized communications and control system, designed to monitor the performance and protect the power facilities, is an essential component in providing a reliable and predictable power supply. The system will allow the Ministry of Electricity to monitor in real time output and distribution, prompting timely controls for equitable distribution of power to the governorates. The system will also facilitate the future sale of surplus electrical power to other Arab states.

Projects include:
  • National and Regional (Northern and Southern) Dispatch Centers
  • Regional Wireless Network
  • Power Line Carrier
  • Countrywide Communications and SCADA

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