By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 24, 2007 - Efforts to improve Iraq's electrical power grid continue to make good progress, a senior U.S. military engineering officer reported from Baghdad today. For example, all four thermal turbine electricity generators in Baghdad's Doura district are now up and running, Army Brig. Gen. Michael J. Walsh told Internet reporters and "bloggers" during a conference call from Iraq.
"You'll see smoke coming out of all four of them, so we're pretty pumped about that," Walsh said of the Doura power plant's chimneys.
Four more turbine generators in Mussaib are slated to come on line in the next two months, the chief of the Army Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division reported.
Iraqi electrical production topped 5,000 megawatts over 13 days this month, the general said, noting 5,423 megawatts of electric power were produced in Iraq yesterday. "That was the most that has been generated since we've been here," Walsh said.
The U.S. goal is to "jump start" and stabilize Iraq's electric power generation system, Walsh pointed out. The United States, he said, has invested $4 billion toward that endeavor.
Iraqi Minister of Electricity Karim Wahid al-Hassan and his 80,000 employees are working hard to improve their country's electricity-producing capability, Walsh said.
Iraq now averages about 13 hours of daily electric power nationwide, Walsh said. Basra, in the south, gets about 22 hours of electric power daily, he said, while Baghdad now receives about 8 to 10 hours of power.
That's nearly double the electric power Baghdad received at this time last year, Walsh said, when the capital city realized just four to six hours of electricity.
During Saddam Hussein's regime, most of Iraq's electric power was sent to Baghdad so its citizens could have nearly 24 hours of electricity, while most of the rest of the country was left wanting, Walsh explained.
The new Iraqi government's goal is to provide electricity to its citizens on an equitable basis, Walsh said, noting the country's national power grid is designed for load-sharing. However, some Iraqis that receive plentiful electric power, such as those in Basra, are being recalcitrant in sharing their electricity.
Hassan and other senior Iraqi leaders are now working on this issue, Walsh pointed out. Other Iraqi government efforts involve importing diesel fuel from Kuwait to be used for powering electric generators, he added.
Hassan said he envisions reaching 6,000 megawatts of electric power production sometime this year, Walsh said, noting he's confident the Iraqi minister will achieve that goal.
Iraq's power grid became dilapidated from government neglect and war over the course of Saddam's two decades of rule, Walsh said. The power grid is being rebuilt from scratch, the general said, noting Iraq has never produced enough wattage to enable all of its citizens to enjoy 24 hours of electricity.
Walsh said he understands frustrations expressed by Iraqi citizens who now have limited access to electricity. "Until you get 24 hours of power, you're not going to be happy," Walsh said