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Monday, February 13, 2012

Gaza blackout update

Israel's Channel 10 reported about the impending power outages in Gaza City as a result of there being no fuel to run the power plant. It included some video of the darkened streets (around 20:15 on the link):


But it appears that this footage is from the normal daily scheduled outages, not from the power plant going offline. According to Palestine Times, that will happen "at any moment" as supplies coming from Egypt are sporadic and relatively small. 

That is not the only problem, though. 

Egypt has been cracking down on ordinary diesel and fuel smuggling to Gaza, which residents have been relying on for their cars and personal generators. Because of the fuel shortages in the northern Sinai, Egyptian authorities have been stopping the shipments to Gaza to keep their own people from rioting.

Yet in public forums, at least one Gaza official still blames Israel, according to Ma'an:
Walid Saad Sayil manages Gaza's only electricity plant, and said the lack of fuel deliveries leaves three options to stave off blackouts, speaking at the Gaza-based forum PalThink for Strategic Studies on Wednesday.

Sayil says the best and most feasible solution is to bring natural gas from Egypt instead of the current diesel which is purchased from Israeli suppliers. It would take six to eight months to arrange, but would save the Palestinian Authority about 60 percent of its budget on fuel, he told the forum.

Another option is an emergency injection of fuel and electricity, Sayil added, without specifying possible sources.

The Gaza Strip could also connect to a joint electricity grid current shared by eight Arab states. The energy authority recently visited Egypt to discuss this possibility, but he warned that such a connection would take more than a year.

A prerequisite to each option it the upgrading of Gaza's electricity network to handle the new wattage, he said.
Gaza has been refusing power plant fuel deliveries from Israel for over a year, so I think this might be a mistake on Ma'an's part. Because when Sayil says he might want an "emergency injection of fuel" he might be referring to purchasing it from Israel as they used to - but he is apparently too scared to say that out loud in Gaza.
Sayil indicated the major cause of the current energy crisis is the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority's delay in payments for fuel.

The PA is currently working to plug a $1.1 billion deficit in the public budget, but has been criticized before by Gaza officials for failing to deliver critical payments to the blockaded coastal strip.

The power plant director said the energy authority and company in Gaza also bear some responsibility for the crisis, and it worsened over the winter as electricity needs shot up.

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.
Again, Sayil is trying to appease his Hamas leaders, because while it is true that the PA has been slow in paying fuel bills, the Gaza utility company has been very bad at collecting money owed by residents who routinely ignore their electric bills.

Egypt said it would be interested in hooking Gaza up to its electric grid.

As far as delivering Egyptian natural gas to Gaza - do you think that will stop the saboteurs in the Sinai from attacking the gas lines that also go to Israel (and Jordan)?

(h/t Yoel for video link)