After 100 Billion Dollars in Expenditures… Iraq Aims at the Sun for Electricity

Demands have risen for clean energy and the search for alternatives to producing electricity from generating stations that use gas and heavy fuels has increased after the threats of climate change have affected almost all countries. These alternatives are at the forefront of solar energy, which specialists see as the ideal alternative, especially in Iraq, one of the five countries most affected by global warming. However, others say that it is a “dull commodity” and has produced only 5 percent of the world’s total energy for more than a century.

Environmental expert Haider Moataz says, during an interview with “Al Aalem Al Jadeed,” that “the demand for a transition to solar energy is increasing globally, as it is related to the well-being, economy, and health. We must dispose of fossil fuels which produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and thus affect human activities.”

He adds: “In Iraq, the transition towards clean energy in general must be gradual. It is not possible to reduce the production of five million barrels of oil per day to zero. The transition must be within a strategy and programs that link all operating ministries, government institutions and the private sector together, and all beneficiaries of electricity, and that it be homogeneous with other technologies that are appropriate for the work of the ministries, and thus the effects of climate change in Iraq will be reduced.”

Moataz asserts that “the government must build national, not investment, factories to produce solar cells, supported by the state so that the citizen can bear their cost. It can also contribute to the increase in the citizen income by selling his stored energy to the state, as is the case in Germany, according to specific standards.”

In this context, the spokesman for the Ministry of Electricity, Ahmed Moussa, says to “Al Alam Al Jadeed” that “there is a tendency to apply the experience of Al-Zawraa Company – affiliated with the Ministry of Industry and Minerals – in the Ministry of Electricity, where the company provided with solar energy systems, and the company wants to generalize the experience to transform governmental buildings to solar energy to support the national electricity grid system in coordination with our Ministry.”

He continues, “The Ministry is working with the National Energy Support Initiative to convert 560 governmental buildings to solar energy according to specifications, and the first phase will be announced soon. As for the rest of the contracts, they are investment contracts, such as contracts with Total and PowerGina companies, at a rate of one thousand megawatts in Basra Governorate, in addition to two stations in Karbala and Babylon. There is direct work on these stations, which are part of the ministry’s medium-term plan to transition to clean energy.”

On Friday, January 12, 2024, the Director General of Al-Zawraa General Company affiliated with the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, Muhannad Jabbar, revealed a plan to localize the solar panel industry in Iraq to meet the local need that depends mainly on imports.

He said that Al-Zawraa Company is specialized in the field of electrical energy distribution and was merged with Al-Mansour Company, which was one of the first companies to produce solar panels in the Middle East, confirming that it has begun announcing the opportunity for a partnership contract with the private sector, for the purpose of establishing a factory to produce solar panels.

In response, energy expert Kovind Sherwani agrees with what Moataz said, and explains during an interview with “Al Aalem Al Jadeed” that “Iraq is rich in solar energy for 300 days out of 365 days of the year, and it can be invested well because it is easy to finance, as it does not require any high cost in production. And what is important regarding the issue of solar energy in Iraq is that its actual need to provide energy is 35 thousand megawatts, but the current production, according to statements by the Ministry of Electricity, is only 24 thousand megawatts, which constitutes a deficit of 11 thousand megawatts.”

He points out that “the current electricity generators do not work with the required efficiency and it is difficult to supply them with gas, which made the Ministry of Electricity contract with Emirati companies to cover 10 percent of its deficit with a total of five solar energy production plants, in addition to a contract with the French company Total, which are good projects and address the problem of electricity shortage despite that it’s late.”

It is suggested that “the transition to solar energy will be through combining it with the energy supplied by the Ministry of Electricity, by supplying houses with solar panels and batteries that store sunlight during the day and generate electricity at night. Indeed, there is an initiative by Al-Rafidain and Al-Rashid Banks to finance these house projects at good prices and not at the commercial price, which is what the government should work on by providing components to citizens to reduce the cost.”

Sherwani points out that “these projects are not new in Iraq, but during the time of the previous regime they were produced by the Military Industrialization Corporation, so there is no difficulty in producing them, as their materials are imported from East Asian countries in addition to lithium for batteries, then they are assembled in factories, and the ambition is to form large solar energy fields to operate through coordination between the Ministries of Oil and Electricity.”

It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani previously discussed investment opportunities in the energy, oil, and other economic sectors in Iraq, with 57 international companies.

Al-Sudani media office said in a statement, a copy of which was received by Al Aalem Al Jadeed, that the prime minister had a business meeting with heads and representatives of companies, on the sidelines of his participation at the Davos Economic Forum held in Switzerland, referring to solar and renewable energy projects that were concluded with Chinese and Emirati companies.

On the other hand, oil expert Hamza Al-Jawahiri, during an interview with “Al Aalem Al Jadeed”, criticizes that clean energy projects in Iraq “are considered a waste product for the West and have produced only 5 percent of the total global energy over the course of 120 years, in addition to the fact that Iraq is completely dependent on oil revenues, and therefore moving towards solar energy is like a means to impoverish the Iraqi people, and switching from oil to solar energy is a luxury.”

He stresses that “international public opinion that wants to control the climate is driven by countries that contribute to climate change through the coal industry, of which the United States alone produces 40 percent in addition to the rest of the producing countries. Oil and fossil fuels have nothing to do with this change, and they use all types of energy and depend on higher capabilities for producing electricity from these energies.”

Al-Jawahiri explains that “the Ministry of Electricity’s contracts with the French company Total and the rest of the companies are political blackmail by the United States for its partners. In other words, a political game and nothing more, nothing more than fictitious projects.”

It is worth noting that the Ministry of Electricity’s expenditures from the year 2003 until the year 2021 exceeded 80 billion dollars, according to what experts stated at the time, in addition to the ministry’s allocations in the 2022 and 2023 budgets, which raises the number to about 100 billion dollars over 20 years, without any significant improvement in energy supply, as citizens still rely on private generators to provide electricity, especially during the summer and high temperatures.

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