The poorly understood and Insoluble Problem of Electric Power
Many promises are heard from time to time about improving electric power supply. However, reality proves the opposite of these promises, as rationing hours are increasing, and the need to resort to costly available alternatives is expanding further.
According to SANA on Jan 20, 2022, the Minister of Electricity clarified in front of the People’s Assembly that: “most of the system of electricity needs spare parts for maintenance and rehabilitation at costs of more than $400 million, and they are being provided, assuring that there is absolutely no study to increase the price of household electricity. It is also expected that the produced amounts of electricity will increase in the first half of this year with the reactivation of two steam power plants in Aleppo, with a total capacity of 400 MW per hour, while the construction of the power plant in al-Rastein in Latakia is being completed. The Minister also indicated that generating additional amounts of electricity by power plants is related to the supply of new amounts of gas to it.”
So, will the promises of this year be different from previous ones?
The statistical report for the year 2020, issued by the Public Establishment for Electricity Generation, states: that the nominal capacity of power plants is 8300 MW, while the available capacity has reached 4382 MW.
The following intensified table illustrates the situation of power plants through the data of the statistical report of the Establishment for the year 2020:
The table above shows at the beginning: that power plants are considered old and consumed, as the newest power plant was activated in 2013, which is the expansion of Deir Ali.
All power plants are in constant need of periodic and costly maintenance, in addition, of course, to the necessary maintenance due to the direct attacks that occurred during the years of war, and the necessary maintenance due to their age and consumption rates. All these are very high costs estimated at millions of dollars on each power plant every once and a while, which is what the Minister of Electricity has affirmed according to his speech mentioned above.
The annual report of 2020 shows that the total production of the Establishment during 2020 was /24959,69/ million KW per hour. After calculating the self-consumption of power plants, which is /1057,85/ million KW per hour, net production has reached /23648,04/ million KW per hour, with a proportion of 69% for gas, and 31% for fuel or diesel oil. The report also shows that there is a decline in total production from 2019, as it was /26001,5/ million KW per hour, i.e., a decline by /10,419/ million KW per hour in 2020.
The reason of this difference between nominal and actual capacity and the total amount of generation, even the difference between 2019 and 2020, seems to be the constant deterioration of the technical condition of power plants, and the lack of operational fuel, gas in particular. On June 27, 2021, the Director General of power plants in the Ministry of Electricity, has stated via SANA that “the amount of gas available daily is about /8,4/ million cubic meters and it is enough to generate /1400/ MW, and the capacity of generation units that are ready to operate on gas is /3800/ MW, and they need about /19/ million cubic meters per day”. He also stated that: “the amount of generation from generation units that currently operate on fuel reaches about /800/ MW, and any improvement in the situation of electricity through generation units operating on fuel is slow and requires significant financial resources”.
That is, the total generating capacity at the date of the statement, mid-last year, reached /2400/ MW. So, it was declining from what it used to be according to the report of 2020 by /1982/ MW according to actual capacity, and by /95/ MW from the produced amount in 2020, despite all promises about improving electric power supply, and every speech about ongoing maintenance on power plants and their costs.
The report also shows in general: that the lack of operational fuel (gas – fuel) has significantly contributed to the lack of generation, which is what the Minister has affirmed above.
An essential part of the problem of generation is related to the supply of sufficient amounts of operational gas for power plants, which is a chronic and an ongoing problem that is practically the responsibility of the Ministry of Oil!
Planting false Hopes and harvesting Mirage
If the actual consumption needs are currently estimated at /7000/ MW at a minimum (domestic, industrial, and for various other activities) according to some technicians, the difference with the current actual generation capabilities, which are /2400/ MW according to data and statements, is about /4600/ MW.
This significant amount of the current need difference cannot be covered by the ongoing maintenance and planned projects that are being talked about officially, with a combined peak of a production of /1000/ MW at best. That is after the addition of all renewable energy projects announced in various regions, from various sectors (public – private), so the lack of needs would continue at no less than /3600/ MW, and part of the problem would still be the responsibility of the Ministry of Oil, of course.
The situation of electricity, proved by official data, shows that all promises about the improvement of the situation of electric power supply are just repeated false hopes exported to citizens. So, these citizens harvest the mirage of these false hopes as a result, forced to submit to the unjust rationing system, and to resort to available alternatives, some of which have become imposed on them outside legalization, such as: amps in some cities and regions, which have de facto gained their legitimacy and imposed their exploitive conditions on citizens, or through other costly electricity alternatives. This miserable situation is also being invested in promoting and marketing the privatization of the electric power sector, which has practically started being legalized under the name of encouraging investment in renewable energies.
The biggest problem consists in the reduction of subsidy respectively on the prices of energy carriers in general, including electricity, in addition to the legitimate fear that we will be facing new ones in the near future. Although the Minister had affirmed that there is no study to increase the price of household electricity as mentioned above, this does not deny the strategy in place officially on the level of continuing to reduce subsidy to end it, by replacing it with monetary subsidy. This was also affirmed by the Prime Minister in front of the People’s Assembly during the past week, which the citizens will pay the price for as a result at the expense of their livelihoods and services.
The Problems of Energy cannot be solved by Patching
It is controvertible that demand on electric power is constantly increasing, whether on the level of domestic individual consumption or on the level of necessary requirements for production and services. Under the continuation of generation deficit, whether due to lack of operational fuel, or due to the technical situation of power plants, in addition to the network in general, this increase in demand on electric power will not be solved by the maintenance of operating power plants because of its current technical situation and its old age, nor through small mobile power plants that are being talked about, and not even through the small and limited projects of renewable energies from the private sector! All the previous procedures are considered partial, limited, patched, and do not solve the problem practically and definitively. Let alone the factors of corruption that increase the total cost of expenditure on the energy sector in its current deteriorating situation, and the factors of exploitation that citizens are yielding to in order to meet their needs of energy practically.
Growing Needs and the Necessity for a Solution
The need dictates serious and significant investments in the energy sector to fulfill the current need and the increasing demand on it in the future.
That is, the necessity dictates the establishment of new big power plants to meet those increasing needs, while ensuring the durability of supplying them with operational fuel, of course, regardless of the type of fuel which is related to the work nature of the power plants technically, including nuclear power plants, and this perhaps may be the best and most economically viable option, despite its high establishment costs.
All the talk about the possibility of involving the private sector in such significant investments in the energy sector enough to meet the increasing needs, is just an additional form of false hopes, nothing more.
Private investment in energy production projects, as well as other investments in other sectors, especially the ones related to production, needs a number of conditions that are unavailable scientifically in our current circumstances. That is because of political and economic instability, and because of widespread corruption, significant corruption to be more specific, in addition to a group of policies in place.
Such significant investments can only be made through the State itself, and through an empowered and powerful state apparatus, according to strategic policies that are different from the nature of the liberal policies in place. The investments of the beneficiaries of those liberal policies, according to a rich history of such investments on the ground during past decades and until now, are of a fast plundering and unproductive profitable nature, which is not strategic, and often far away from national interest. Also, ensuring the durability of supplying power plants with operational fuel, whether the ones already there or the ones that will be established in the future, means that the state should regain its sovereignty over all oil and gas fields that are currently beyond its control, in order to nationally reinvest them, and to convert part of their production to power plants.
As for nuclear power plants, which may be the best and most important investment to solve the problem of electric energy once and for all, they have an international dimension in one respect, which in turn imposes a state of required political stability that is not currently available as mentioned above.
These are options and possibilities, with all their intensification and briefness, that cannot be made independently of the desired political solution, which will be the gateway to the restoration of the State's sovereignty over its entire territory, capabilities and wealth, and a prelude to the radical and comprehensive change required.
All else is a form of false hopes, and a corrupt plundering game in the wasted time at the expense of citizens and the nation, and a postponement of benefits, nothing more!