Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gaza Power Plant Forced to Shut Down, PCHR Concerned by Deterioration of Humanitarian Conditions of Approximately 1.6 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip

The operation of Gaza Energy Plant was stopped this morning because the fuel required to operate the Plant ran out. PCHR is concerned that the current crisis may impact the access of 1.6 million Palestinians to vital services, including the supply of drinking water, and that this crisis may result in the suspension of work in some vital sectors, such as health, sanitation and education. 

According to PCHR's follow up of the ongoing power crisis in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Energy Authority in Gaza announced that the operation of the Gaza Power plant was totally stopped this morning, 14 February 2012, due to the lack of fuel. The Energy Authority alleged that the lack of fuel is due to the intentional measures taken to prevent the delivery of fuel to Gaza. In a press release published today on its website, the Energy Authority in Gaza noted that the main power resource in Gaza shut down, explaining that this power resource already suffers from serious deficit and covers only 35% of Gaza needs' of electrical power. The Energy Authority held the Israeli occupation accountable for the ongoing crisis.

For over a week, the Gaza power plant has been suffering from a decrease in fuel coming from Egypt through tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. Since last Friday, 340,000 liters of fuel were delivered to Gaza via tunnels. This quantity of fuel can operate Gaza power plant only for half a day as the Plant consumes 600,000 liters of fuel daily. The Energy Authority in Gaza used the fuel in its stock to cover the deficit in the fuel supplies. Fuel ran out from the stocks and the Energy Authority announced the total shutdown of the Power plant.

PCHR has concerns that the new crisis may result in serious consequences. This crisis will increase electrical shortage to 62%. Mr. Jamal al-Dardasawi, Director of Public Relations in the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) in Gaza, stated that currently 137 megawatts of electricity is provided to the Gaza Strip as follows: 120 megawatts from Israel and 17 megawatts supplied by Egypt. The Gaza Strip needs approximately 360 megawatts of electricity daily. Al-Dardasawi noted that the GEDCO will apply a schedule based on which power will be distributed for six hours and then cut off for 12 hours every day.

Eng. Walid Saad Sayel, Executive Manager of the Gaza Power plant accused, in press statements, GEDCO and the Energy Authority of serious failure to play the role assigned to them. He noted that the plant can technically provide between 130 and 140 megawatts of electricity but the limited quantities of fuel supplied to the plant affects its capacity. Sayel said that the power crisis has been seriously affected the Gaza Strip since the start of the internal fragmentation. He called upon all the parties concerned to neutralize the power sector and not to involve it in the political crisis.

It should be noted that before November 2009, the European Union (EU) used to pay 50 million NIS monthly for the cost of the industrial fuel supplied from Israel to the Gaza power plant. In November 2009, the EU announced its suspension of the direct funds used to pay the cost of the industrial fuel. The EU started to pay those funds to the PNA which in turn pledged to pay for the cost of the industrial fuel needed for the operation of the power plant. The Palestinian Energy Authority in Ramallah used funds from its budget to pay for the cost of the needed industrial fuel while, on its part, GEDCO transferred the money it collected from power consumers in the Gaza Strip to the Energy Authority in Ramallah. However, the Energy Authority in Ramallah reduced the financial coverage for the industrial fuel, claiming that the money sent by GEDCO was not sufficient to cover the cost of the industrial fuel needed for Gaza power plant. Over the two past years, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip suffered power outages between 6 and 12 hours a day. In April 2004, the Energy Authority in Gaza and the Energy Authority in Ramallah reached an agreement that GEDCO would transfer $ 4 million to the Energy Authority in Ramallah to be used to cover the cost of the industrial power. In January 2011, the Energy Authority in Gaza stopped importing industrial fuel from Israel, and imported fuel from Egypt through the funnels as technicians in the Energy Authority managed to utilize the Egyptian fuel to operate Gaza Power plant.

The suffering of the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip has aggravated, especially in light of the cold weather, due to the ongoing power crisis and Palestinians have suffered repeated power outages. The people expressed their utmost dissatisfaction because the power sector is put in the midst of the political conflict. The new crisis coincides with the beginning of the second school semester.

PCHR follows the power crisis and its aggravation in the Gaza Strip with grave concern and:

1. Calls upon all the concerned parties, including the two Palestinian governments in Gaza and Ramallah and GEDCO, to exert all efforts possible and necessary to provide fuel needed to re-operate the Gaza power plant, and to ensure the continued operation of the plant;

2. Warns of the serious consequences of the total shutdown of the Gaza power plant and the resulting impact on the access of 1.6 million Palestinians to vital services, including the supply of drinking water, and on the work in some vital sectors such as health, sanitation, and education;

3. Reiterates that it is necessary to immediately look for strategic solutions for ending the ongoing power crisis which has been affecting the Gaza Strip for approximately 6 years; and

4. Stresses that Palestinian civilians must not bear the brunt of the failure of the parties responsible for this crisis. Thus, these parties must be committed to provide Palestinian civilians with power services under all circumstances.