Iraq opts for clean energy in ambitious energy reform agenda

Iraqi plans to develop 7.5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2023 in accordance with the decision of the Ministerial Energy Council are on track. This was confirmed in a statement from Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismail broadcast on October 3 on SkyNews Arabia.

The projects are part of a plan to reform the energy system, aiming to produce 63% of electricity from clean energy within five years, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Electricity said on 23 October. , Ahmed Moussa.

So far, the Iraqi government has contracted with a group of international clean energy companies to establish power plants with a capacity of 3.5 GW, as part of a 12 GW production plan. GW.

More recently, Iraq signed a contract with Abu Dhabi state-owned Masdar to develop solar PV projects with a combined capacity of 1 GW. The first stage of these projects is currently being implemented. They include a 450 megawatt (MW) plant in Dhi Qar, a 350 MW plant in Anbar, a 100 MW plant in Nineveh and another 100 MW in Maysan. The Iraqi government has also signed a contract with the French oil company TotalEnergies for the construction of a 1 GW solar power plant in the Basra region. This comes in addition to an agreement with a consortium led by the Norwegian Scatec to build a 525 MW solar project consisting of a 300 MW plant in Karbala and a 225 MW plant in Babylon, at a cost of 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

The first solar power plant to be added to the national power generation system is the Total 1 GW power plant. This is expected at the end of next year. The other solar power plants will be added gradually in 2023.

Ismail, who also heads the Ministerial Energy Council, said Iraq has several clean energy transition programs. “We have so far signed three contracts for the installation of solar-powered power plants,” he noted.

He pointed out that Iraq has so far implemented 40% of the program to establish renewable energy projects, stressing his country’s compliance with environmental emission limits to reduce emissions and pollution.

Iraq suffers from a severe electricity shortage. It generates less than 21,000 MW while it needs 30,000 MW. This is in addition to a shortage of gas that powers power plants. Iraq needs $ 15 billion a year to achieve self-sufficiency in electricity, and the country’s income cannot meet the needs of the electricity sector given the high spending of the public sector.

Iraq has not attempted to establish clean energy power plants in recent years. Its current efforts follow its accession to the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions earlier this year.

The switch to solar power in Iraq is not without its problems that require specialized studies. For example, the country’s dilapidated electricity system is unable to withstand fluctuations in energy production. This is in addition to the decrease in thermal efficiency with increasing temperatures.

It should be noted, however, that Iraq benefits from very high irradiation levels, estimated at over 1,899 kWh per square meter (approximately 11 square feet).

Therefore, it is necessary to have a regular and reliable transmission and distribution network to allow solar power plants to operate smoothly and smoothly.

The other challenge is that the plans of successive previous governments have all focused on production, disregarding distribution, transportation and fee collection.

Iraq’s move towards clean energy can add to the country’s budget more than $ 5 billion a year from the exploitation of crude oil, which can run power stations and end gas imports from from Iran.

The Iraqi government seems to be moving towards connecting its electricity with the Gulf countries, Turkey and Jordan in order to end Iran’s monopoly. The country imports 5 million cubic meters per day from Tehran at a higher price than the world price, at a cost of around $ 8 per million British thermal unit. In addition, the Ministry of Electricity uses crude oil for power generation, as it spends 200,000 barrels per day, bringing the expenditure to over $ 5 billion per year.

Iraq ranks very well on the environmental pollution scale. This is due to the increased production of oil and gas combustion, the increase in the number of private cars and generators, in addition to the extensive desertification. This has resulted in a major crisis which has led to thousands of new cases of cancer each year. To make matters worse, the temperature rose above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) last summer.

In order to deal with the crisis, the government of Mustafa al-Kadhimi re-established the Ministry of the Environment; former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had merged it with the Ministry of Health.

At the same time, the Central Bank of Iraq launched a lending initiative through banks to encourage citizens to install solar panels in their homes and residential complexes, to generate electricity, reduce heat emissions and reduce the number of private generators scattered throughout residential areas.

In the same vein, the Iraqi government announced on September 22 the start of the transition to alternative energies and the use of the green economy, by forming a high-level committee, based on the Paris Agreement on the climate and aimed at reducing pollution.

Environment Minister Jassem al-Falahi said Iraq has 10 months of sunshine which can be used to generate electricity for citizens, through solar panels put in place by the government or citizens. He noted that clean energy prices have started to gradually decline due to development and increased competition among businesses.

He urged Iraqi state departments and schools to use clean energy to generate electricity, which helps ease the load on the power system and gradually reduce the use of fossil fuels. “Iraq can use international funds to finance and develop clean energy projects,” he said.

It seems that the switch to clean energy to generate electricity has become a general trend among Iraqi citizens. In the field, however, the prices of this energy are still high. This forces the government to reduce or lift tariffs on clean energy materials to lower their prices and make them accessible to everyone.

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