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Iraq inks energy deals on premier's US visit

By AFP - Apr 21,2024 - Last updated at Apr 21,2024

BAGHDAD — Iraq has signed several memoranda of understanding in the energy sector during Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al Sudani's visit to the United States, with Baghdad unveiling recently plans to boost electricity production.

Sudani met US President Joe Biden Monday and on Wednesday oversaw the signing of a series of agreements, including one aimed at rehabilitating power plants and optimising the use of gas currently being flared at oil fields, his office said.

Iraq's power plants are currently highly dependent on gas imported from Iran, which provides about a third of its neighbour's energy needs. But Tehran has often cut supplies, exacerbating regular power outages.

The agreements signed Wednesday include a memorandum of understanding with US firm General Electric, which Electricity Minister Ziad Fadel said would "ensure the maintenance and modernisation of Iraq's electricity sector over a period of five years".

Eighteen power plants with a total production capacity of 7,500 megawatts are included in the project, which would also enable "the supply of an additional 3,000 MW to the national grid", the minister said in a post on X.

Authorities say daily national production of at least 32,000 MW is needed to avoid rolling blackouts. Last year, Iraq hit the 26,000 MW mark for the first time.

Despite its vast oil wealth, Iraq struggles to provide enough electricity to its 43 million people after decades of conflict and sanctions, as well as rampant corruption and crumbling infrastructure.

Power outages, which sometimes trigger angry protests, are particularly severe in the summer when temperatures regularly hit 50oC and demand for refrigeration and air-conditioning surges.

Prime Minister Sudani has repeatedly stressed the need for Iraq to diversify energy sources to ease the chronic outages.

In late March, Baghdad announced a power line would bring electricity from neighbouring Jordan. A similar initiative would connect southern Iraq to Kuwait, importing about 500 MW during a first phase that Baghdad's electricity ministry says will begin in late 2024.

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