By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 7, 2008 - Iraqi and coalition personnel are using the security improvements of the past year to make tremendous progress on the energy front, the director of energy for Multinational Force Iraq said yesterday. At a news conference in Baghdad, British Brigadier Carew Wilks said repairing Iraq's neglected and battered energy infrastructure -- including pipelines carrying fuel and power lines carrying electricity -- is the focus of his office.
"Much of Iraq's energy infrastructure is old and in poor condition and has not kept pace with demand," Wilks said. "It will take many years and major investment to fully meet the needs of the Iraqi people. But a strong start has been made, and significant steps have already been taken through major restoration projects and repairs."
Wilks, who also is co-chair of the energy fusion cell, said significant improvements have taken place in Iraq's strategic energy infrastructure over the past six months.
"The improved security situation across Iraq and the reduced number of attacks on the infrastructure has made it possible for the most important oil pipelines and electricity transmission lines to be repaired," he said. "And much of this network is now in use."
While many Iraqi and coalition personnel have contributed to this success, Wilks said, he highlighted the work of the electricity and oil repair teams.
"The bravery and dedication of the Iraqi engineers and technicians in these repair teams from the ministries of Electricity and Oil has been outstanding," he said. "They have worked in very difficult and dangerous conditions, at constant risk of their lives and for very long hours. The people of Iraq should applaud their work and be very proud of their commitments and their achievements. They are the true heroes of the energy sector."
Most of the critical high-voltage transmission lines are now in operation around Iraq, the brigadier said. This provides a more stable national grid and a more reliable share of electricity across Iraq.
"This time last year, there were nine critical power lines which had been attacked and needed repair," he said. "This year, ... there are none. This means that electricity can be delivered more fairly to the Iraqi people and that the grid is more reliable and more robust."
And now, he added, the repair teams can move on to new construction rather than repair.
Still more needs to be done, the brigadier acknowledged. Terrorists recently sabotaged three of the main electrical lines in Iraq. Still, he said, the current situation is a huge improvement from the past.