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The good electricity news from Iraq has been lots of announcements of plans to improve things. Unfortunately, electricity production has not improved. To the left you can see how the electricity supply in Baghdad has gotten worse and worse. The graph ends in May. Why?:

As the Bush administration struggles to convince lawmakers that its Iraq war strategy is working, it has stopped reporting to Congress a key quality-of-life indicator in Baghdad: how long the power stays on.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that Baghdad residents could count on only “an hour or two a day” of electricity. That’s down from an average of five to six hours a day earlier this year.

But that piece of data has not been sent to lawmakers for months because the State Department, which prepares a weekly “status report” for Congress on conditions in Iraq, stopped estimating in May how many hours of electricity Baghdad residents typically receive each day.

Comments

  1. #1 ben
    July 28, 2007

    Sounds bad. What’s the solution?

  2. #2 Tony P
    July 28, 2007

    Kind of hard to keep the power on when IED’s, insurgents, etc. are around.

    We opened Pandora’s Box on this one.

  3. #3 Robert
    July 28, 2007

    ben asked:

    Sounds bad. What’s the solution?

    I thought that was clear: the news sounded bad, so the solution is to stop reporting it.

  4. #4 Eli Rabett
    July 28, 2007

    In case anyone is wondering when the lights will go out on this disaster.

  5. #5 dsquared
    July 28, 2007

    Of course, the less information you have, the less possible it is to reject the hypothesis that electricity in Baghdad is available 25 hours a day, 8 days a week and 367 days a year.

  6. #6 Ian Gould
    July 28, 2007

    The “hours per day” figure may be overstating the decline in power output.

    Anecdotally, Iraqis have been buying lots of electrical appliances since the invasion, including air-conditioners.
    That reflects the pent-up demand from a decade of sanctions.

    So it may be that electricity supply is stable or only declining slightly but failing to keep up with demand.

    Electricity supply from the national grid also ignores the rising contribution from household and neighbourhood generators.

    The Brookings Institute’s Iraq index includes the actual power generation figures and if anyone wants to dig that up it’s probably a more reliable indicator of the state of the Iraqi national power grid than the hours per day figure.

  7. #7 Ian Gould
    July 28, 2007

    Ben,

    First off, the US and the rest of the developed world has virtually stopped reconstruction aid to Iraq. Clearly more money is needed.

    Second, many of the previous projects failed because foreign engineers didn’t understand Iraqi conditions adequately. (For example, installing generators that required highly refined ultra-clean fuel which broke down as soon as the first batch of locally-provided fuel was used.) It may increase the risk of corruption, but at least at the technical level, Iraqis have to be in charge of the planning and implementation. (Assuming there are any Iraqis left in the country who can do this. The educated middle classes have been fleeing the country in huge numbers.)

    Third, the small neighbourhood private generators seem to have largely escaped attacks. I suspect that’s because people are more willing to tolerate attacks that cut off power to a town 100 miles away than attacks that cut off their own power. It’d be more expensive and less efficient than repairing the national grid but distributing diesel generators to many of the smaller towns might reduce demand on the national grid. Similarly, giving solar hot water systems used on a large scale would reduce demand on the national grid.

  8. #8 jc
    July 28, 2007

    Who’s counting the locally generated power? Is that in he numbers?

  9. #9 sod
    July 29, 2007

    here s the link to

    brookings

    it doesn t have power generation figures for Baghdad, but seems to have been relying on the hours numbers that now will no longer be published.

    btw, how would anybody meassure electricity production by small private generators? which run different number of hours every day?

    there are a lot of problems, with those small generators. they cause noise, require private fuel stacks, will be badly maintained and require local grids.

    medium sized generators would have been a good solution. but for some reason, big projects were prefered…

  10. #10 Eli Rabett
    July 29, 2007

    How about the apparatchiks and dudes that ran Iraq from the Emerald City not having a clue

  11. #11 dsquared
    July 29, 2007

    [how would anybody meassure electricity production by small private generators? ]

    I think the “Hours of Power” figure comes from a household survey, and so might include private generators. The trouble with this as a solution is that the reliability to supplies of diesel fuel is not that great either.

  12. #12 QrazyQat
    July 29, 2007

    The “hours per day” figure may be overstating the decline in power output.

    Back a couple years when the “gee see electricity… all good in Iraq!” thing was going strong they were using hours more than amounts generated because the amounts generated were less than when Saddam was in power and had been mostly dropping, with a few spikes of course, for some time.

  13. #13 sod
    July 29, 2007

    I think the “Hours of Power” figure comes from a household survey, and so might include private generators. The trouble with this as a solution is that the reliability to supplies of diesel fuel is not that great either.

    i have some doubts about monthly power surveys in Iraq.

    and i m rather sure that an electricity company can tell you, how long their grid is online every day in different parts of town.

    but even IF a survey was done, i m rather sure that Iraqis would distinguish between power from the grid and electricity they produce themselves.
    power from your own portable generator is emergency power, not more. 50 lightbulbs will stretch a 3000 watt diesel generator.

    there was an interesting post about generators on iraqthemodel a couple of months ago. you pay hard bucks for your neighbors electricity and try to keep your usage low.

  14. #14 JB
    July 29, 2007

    “Who’s counting the locally generated power? Is that in he numbers?”

    yes, perhaps the Iraqis are all producing their own power with Sears 2.5 HP generators.

    So that makes it all OK that the hours of power per day has gone to hell.

    Let’s face it. At this point, only a complete moron — Baghdad Bob or Tony Snow (who may be one and the same) — would try to put a happy face on what has happened in Iraq.

    In a way, it amazes me that it took so long for the Bush administration to stop quoting the hours per day stat, since it has been declining at such a steep rate for so long. Perhaps the Bushies thought that most Americans would think that Iraqis were all on vacation at the beach for 3 years so they did not need electricity?

  15. #15 ben
    July 30, 2007

    …since it has been declining at such a steep rate for so long.

    The graph doesn’t really show that. Looks like the hours per day is leveling out to me…

  16. #16 ben
    July 30, 2007

    Dang, can’t stick images in here. Well, I made a goofy graph and put it here.

  17. #17 FDB
    July 30, 2007

    Ben, perhaps it’s going to level out at zero?

  18. #18 Robert
    July 30, 2007

    ben said:

    Looks like the hours per day is leveling out to me…

    That’s cuz it can’t go below zero.

  19. #19 FDB
    July 30, 2007

    On second thoughts, and having seen your somewhat optimistic-looking curve, how about this question? [not that one, this next one]

    Do you think levelling out a 2 hours per day would or should effectively deflect criticism of the rebuilding programme?

  20. #20 FDB
    July 30, 2007

    “That’s cuz it can’t go below zero.”

    Until Iraqis all get rooftop PV panels – then we might see a few hours per day in the other direction.

  21. #21 dhogaza
    July 30, 2007

    The graph doesn’t really show that. Looks like the hours per day is leveling out to me…

    Huh, the section from 25 to 41 on the x axis looks roughly linear to me – pointing DOWN. Yeah, that’s an improvement over the rate of decline earlier, but it’s not “leveling out”, it’s “settled down” to a rate that will, soon enough, stop at zero.

    At which point you can honestly say it will level off … or perhaps even swing upwards! Success!

  22. #22 galmud
    July 30, 2007

    Meanwhile at the White House..

    Condoleezza Rice: “Mr. President, about that Baghdad electricity problem..”

    GW Bush: “What problem Condi? Judging by the graph here Baghdad is doing great.”

    Rice: “Ehrm Mr. President, you’re holding it upside down.”

    Bush: “Huh? What the..? Oh Christ! Stop telling congress at once or I’ll look real stupid!”

    Rice: “Yes Mr. President.”

    Bush: “You know Condi, holding it this way, this graph looks exactly like that global temperature graph I looked at yesterday.”

  23. #23 Barry
    July 30, 2007

    jb: “…since it has been declining at such a steep rate for so long.”

    ben: “The graph doesn’t really show that. Looks like the hours per day is leveling out to me… ”

    The thing that digs the deepest into me is that there are *so* many suckers, who still believe after four years of sh*t, and here I am, not making a cent off of them :(

  24. #24 JB
    July 30, 2007

    ben said: Looks like the hours per day is leveling out to me…

    Robert said: “That’s cuz it can’t go below zero.”

    Ah, but I think you may be misunderestimating George Bush.

    With “George’s Adventures in Blunderland”, anything is possible.

  25. #25 Ragout
    July 30, 2007

    In other words, Iraq is at the forefront of the fight against global warming. It’s just like you liberals to try and spin this as a bad thing.

  26. #26 Robert
    July 30, 2007

    Ragout: We’re fighting global warming over there so we don’t have to fight it over here.

  27. #27 Hank Roberts
    July 30, 2007

    We’re fighting for Halliburton’s big centralized electrical distribution systems over there, so we don’t have to fight the decentralized, uncontrollable growth of electrical cogeneration systems over here.

    It’s Osamamory Lovins they’re really worried about.

    At Gristmill: http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2007/07/26/lovins/

    “… resilience is at a premium? Iraq is the obvious example.

    “answer Some of us have made three attempts at [bringing decentralized power to Iraq] and there’s a fourth now under discussion. The first three attempts, the third of which was backed by the Iraqi power minister, were vetoed by the U.S. political authorities on the grounds that they’d already given big contracts to Bechtel, Halliburton, et. al to rebuild the old centralized system, which of course the bad guys are knocking down faster than it can be put back up.

    “question How could Iraq have played out differently?

    “answer If you build an efficient, diverse, dispersed, renewable electricity system, major failures — whether by accident or malice — become impossible by design rather than inevitable by design, an attractive nuisance for terrorists and insurgents. There’s a pretty good correlation between neighborhoods with better electrical supply and those that are inhospitable to insurgents. …”

  28. #28 JB
    July 30, 2007

    ragout: Iraq is at the forefront of the fight against global warming.”

    If we are to take George Bush seriously, I think we would also have to conclude that Iraq is also at the forefront of the fight against over-population.(or any sort of population, period)

  29. #29 Rose Colored Glasses
    August 5, 2007

    You’ll remember the point of all that precision bombing was to destroy Iraq’s infrastructure and thus hasten Saddam’s defeat, and then Dick’s friends would get lucrative no-bid contracts to replace it all. Well, the money got spent, but the work was cheapjack, so it’s falling apart excellently.

    Remember, PNAC plans to have the US rebuilding Iraq for the next 70 years, so it would be a fatal mistake to have anything actually working in the next several decades.

  30. #30 MAJ Al
    February 15, 2008

    I was in the Army, in Baghdad and was a electricity SME (subject matter expert) in 05 and 06. I can tell you:
    1) Iraq’s electric system was destroyed from neglect before we got there.
    2) Terror attacks on us, the Ministry of Electric employees (yes lots of Iraqies) and the electrical infrastructure had and still is a big part of their problem.
    3) Shortages of LFO (light fuel oil) due to refinery capacity and again terrorist attacks is another big cause.
    4) The proliferation of ‘neighborhood Generator’s’ created by entraprenours (sp) has filled the void of public produced power.
    5) The public power is free (get what you pay for) and the NG/private ain’t; but it is availible to virtually everyone … and everyone who can afford it buy it and that’s just about everyone.
    6) Essential services such as refineries, water/sewage plants, police, fire, schools and hospitals have priority and recieve power almost 24×7.
    7) If you don’t believe then fly over Baghdad some night and you will see it all lit-up like any other city.
    8) It has been and always will be the Iraqi people’s responcibility to solve their poawer woes.

    This may not fit our manufactured views, but it is true.