Less Than a Third of Gaza’s Power Needs Met After Sole Power Plant Shuts Down

Gaza's sole power plant. (Photo: File)

After the besieged Gaza Strip’s sole power plant shut down Sunday, as fuel supplies funded by Qatar and Turkey in January dried up, Gaza’s electricity company announced on Monday that that the total available power supply was less than one third of the daily consumption in the coastal enclave.

In its daily report, the company explained that it could only distribute 133 megawatts a day to the Gaza Strip’s districts, which consume between 450 and 500 megawatts. The Israeli grids provide 120 megawatts, while Egyptian grids are able to provide only 13, after one of the Egyptian power lines was disconnected last night, according to the statement.

Later Monday, Gaza’s power authority accused the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) for causing “another electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.”

Deputy Chairman of Gaza’s power authority Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil said in a news conference in Gaza City that the PA’s power authority “has been putting off major projects, which could help solve the electricity crisis in Gaza,” such as a project that which seeks to increase the output of the power grid linking Gaza to Israel through the 161 line, enlargement of the Egyptian grids, and installing a gas line for Gaza’s power plant, he said.

“Fuel for the power plant should have been bought in from the money (Gaza’s) electricity company collects from consumers, but this has become unaffordable after the (PA) consensus government decided to suddenly impose full taxes on the fuel it sells to the power plant.”

Gaza’s power authority has repeatedly blamed the electricity crisis on the PA-imposed fuel taxes in recent days. According to Khalil, operating the power plant’s two generators costs 50 million shekels ($13.67 million) with these taxes as opposed to 20 million ($5.47 million) without.

The official said that Gaza residents were currently connected to power for six hours at a time followed by 12 hours blackouts – down from Gaza’s normal schedule of two eight-hour intervals of daily electricity. According to Qatar-based news site Al Jazeera, locals said they were expecting a reduction to just four hours of electricity at a time.

Gaza’s power authority warned of an imminent shut down of the plant last week, and on Friday, temporarily cut off electricity to all districts in protest of “unfair measures” imposed on the coastal enclave, as Hamas and the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority (PA) continued to blame each other for a deepening electricity crisis in the coastal enclave, aggravated by a decade-long political dispute between the factions.

The PA has meanwhile argued that the Hamas movement was responsible for “creating a new crisis in the Gaza Strip,” using near identical terms to accusations lobbed by Hamas at the Fatah-lead government.

PA spokesperson Yousif al-Mahmoud has said that the PA was committed to covering the costs of Gaza’s electricity originating from Israel and Egypt, saying his government has paid 40 million shekels ($10,931,732) a month for Israeli electricity and seven million shekels ($1,913,053) for Egyptian.

Commenting on the now used-up supply Qatari-funded fuel, al-Mahmoud said that “Hamas’ electricity company” has collected 100 million shekels ($27,329,329) worth of electricity fees from residents of Gaza while not paying anything to receive the electricity.

Even at full capacity, Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids, together with Gaza’s power plant, fail to cover the Gaza Strip’s energy needs. The power plant has not run at full capacity in years, while Israel’s crippling blockade has severely limited fuel imports into the coastal enclave.

In an interview Sunday with Israeli outlet The Jerusalem Post, United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Robert Piper said that “the UN has been warning for some years that the chronic problems of Gaza are accumulating to the extent that we may be approaching a tipping point at which Gaza becomes unlivable.”

“There is the political issue of getting Ramallah and Gaza on the same page,” he said, referring to the PA government in the West Bank and Gaza’s de facto rulers, Hamas. “There is a lack of trust and transparency about how much revenue is raised and where that revenue ends up,” Piper said.

According to Piper, to restore the flow of electricity in Gaza would involve renovation and infrastructure work, and he suggested the power plant be run on natural gas rather than diesel to save costs.

To help fix Gaza’s electricity problem and to make it “dramatically cheaper,” the Gaza power plant could be run on natural gas, Piper said.

The plant would need to be renovated to shift it from a diesel-based operation, Piper said, adding that the project could be done in stages.

Piper told the news outlet that Israel could also increase the amount of electricity it sends to Gaza, but infrastructure would need to be upgraded first.

“You have political and trust problems. You have a funding issue. You have the absolute pivotal question of whether Israel will allow the necessary material to go in, and so on,” he said.

Piper stressed that the primary cause for the crisis was Israeli-imposed restrictions on the freedom of movement of goods and people through the two border crossings Israel’s control into the blockaded territory, as well as one controlled by Egypt, which has made a viable economy impossible.

(Maan, PC, Social Media)

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