Monday, February 13, 2012

Official: Gaza faces 18 hour power cuts

Gaza's sole power plant. (MaanImages/Hatem Omar, File)

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza will soon have only six hours of electricity per day if more fuel is not delivered to the blockaded strip, an energy official said on Monday.

Gaza power authority official Ahmad Abu al-Amaren said a small delivery of fuel on Monday staved off a wide-scale blackout, but the authority will soon be forced to introduce a highly restricted schedule, with cuts for 16 to 18 hours each day.

A solution to the electricity crisis depends on Egypt allowing the necessary fuel to pass into the coastal strip, he said.

The Palestinian Authority took over responsibility from the European Union for delivering industrial diesel to the Gaza Energy Authority in late 2009.

While limited amounts of gas, mainly used by individual households, are purchased from Israeli suppliers and permitted to enter the besieged strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, most of Gaza's energy is brought unofficially from Egypt using underground tunnels.

Egyptian supplies are cheaper than the Israeli companies, which themselves purchase gas from Egypt, a Ma'an correspondent said.

But with Egypt beset by continuing domestic unrest after throwing out Hosni Mubarak a year ago, agreement has yet to be reached on stable fuel deliveries to Gaza, he added.

A recent trip by Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh to Egypt had secured pledges to deliver more electricity, but they are far from being put into effect, an energy official told Ma'an last week.

The fuel shortage has worsened as unrest escalates in the Sinai peninsula bordering Gaza, where Egyptian security forces are battling a Bedouin tribe whose members have attacked police and kidnapped foreign tourists.

Meanwhile, the director of Gaza's only power plant Walid Saad Sayil said Wednesday that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority's delay in payments for fuel contributed to the crisis, as well as failures by the energy authority and company in Gaza.

In 2003, a proposal was developed to build a new power station in Gaza, but supporters have failed to commit to their pledges, he said, adding that neither government in the West Bank or Gaza Strip have implemented the project.

Gaza, which is under an Israeli land and sea blockade, struggles to rehabilitate its power infrastructure due to a ban on importing materials for locally implemented construction. The Gaza power plant suffered damage in Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008 and 2006.

But Abu Al-Amaren pledged that despite the escalating crisis, the plant "will operate until the last available drop of fuel."

Maan News Agency