Iraq seeks international investors to build new solar projects

Solar energy is rare in Iraq, except for lighting on some of its main streets.
Monday 22/02/2021
Ministry of electricity workers work to maintain the electricity network in Basra, Iraq. (AP)
Ministry of electricity workers work to maintain the electricity network in Basra, Iraq. (AP)

BAGHDAD--Iraq is seeking international investors to build seven solar power plants, with a total capacity of 750 megawatts (MW) as it aims to develop its renewable energy potential.

Keen on expanding its small power generation capacity, Iraq is in talks with some of the international companies, including French Total and Norwegian companies, ‌ to discuss building solar projects, the oil ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

All the seven solar power plants to be built in the south of the country, including a largest 300 megawatts plant in Karbala, said the statement.

The dilapidated national grid supplies only a few hours of power a day, leaving Iraqis to swelter in the summer months, when temperatures can top 50 degrees Celsius.

Solar energy is rare in Iraq, except for lighting on some of its main streets.

Over the past years, the Iraqi government announced the opening of 12 sites in central, southern and western provinces of the country for foreign and local investment in the field of solar energy, as part of plans to produce a thousand megawatts in the first phase.

Iraq relies on Iran for electricity imports but the cooperation between the two countries does not sit well with Washington, which has long encouraged Baghdad to diversify its partners in the field of energy to include Arab Gulf countries.

Iran provides Iraq with around 1,200 megawatts of electricity per day, and 40 million cubic metres of gas.

Between 2003 and 2019, Iraq spent about $50 billion on the electricity sector without effectively addressing its chronic crisis.

Iraq has been suffering from a lack of electricity production since the US invasion of the country in 2003, despite spending tens of billions of dollars on projects that were not completed, most of which were affected by widespread corruption.

The suffering of Iraqis — especially the thousands of displaced people – is quite serious in some provinces due to the poor supply of electrical power to homes and refugee camps that lack basic elements for temporary housing.

The coronavirus pandemic deepened the devastating effects of the electricity crisis on Iraqis’ lives.

Last July, when temperatures soared above 50 degrees celsius, locals were forced to stay at home because of pandemic-related restrictions. During this time, they received electricity for only 8 hours per day, leaving them with 16 hours of blackout.