Partnership Continues to Improve Electrical Grid in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 26, 2004 Along with the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, June 30 is expected to mark another milestone in Iraq: electricity production at 6,000 megawatts.
Retired Navy Rear Adm. David J. Nash, director of the Coalition Provisional Authority's Iraq Program Management Office in Baghad, told Pentagon reporters this week that electricity production exceeds prewar levels and is steadily increasing. Nash said the county's electrical grid was so dilapidated that last summer it generated only about 3,000 megawatts of power less than one-third of its full capacity.
As production increases, so does demand, Nash said, particularly as temperatures in Iraq hover in the triple digits.
Restoring and improving the electric power system is considered a vital part of reconstruction efforts in Iraq, with a direct daily impact on the Iraqi people. In his May 24 speech to the American people, President Bush called rebuilding the nation's infrastructure the third step in his five-step plan for Iraqi democracy. He cited many examples of successful initiatives already under way to help Iraq quickly gain economic independence and a better quality of life for its people including the upgrade of the country's electric grid.
"We're making progress, yet there still is much work to do," the president said. "Over the decades of Saddam's rule, Iraq's infrastructure was allowed to crumble, while money was diverted to palaces, and to wars, and to weapons programs."
The Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Iraq Program Management Office and the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity are working together as partners to make up for this neglect. Thomas O'Hara from the Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division in Baghdad called the rebuilding of Iraq's 18 major power stations and the electrical network they support "an incredible engineering effort." Already, the partnership has restored or replaced 5,355 miles of transmission line.
Last summer, the partners formed the new Task Force Restore Iraqi Electricity, which kicked off more than 40 new and rehabilitated generation, transmission, distribution and control systems projects. The program, valued at more than $1.5 billion, quickly boosted electricity production by an additional 1,000 megawatts.
O'Hara said the effort meant the entire Iraqi population was getting roughly 18 hours of electricity a day 50 percent more than that most were accustomed to. Only Baghdad, the sole Iraqi city to enjoy nearly 24/7 power under the Saddam Hussein regime, experienced any reduction as its share of the power grid was more evenly distributed throughout the country, O'Hara explained.
While much more work lies ahead, O'Hara called the ongoing progress in restoring electricity throughout Iraq an example of Herculean dedication that's having a direct impact on the lives of the Iraqi people. Reaching the milestone of 6,000 megawatts of production by late June will give Iraq "more electrical capacity than the country has seen in a generation," he said. "And it gets better every day."