Iraq hopes to plug its electricity shortage by the end of next year and will supply private generator operators with fuel this summer to address the shortfall, its top energy official said on Sunday.
Contracts signed to ramp up electricity supply will increase Iraq's domestic production to around 20,000 megawatts, against expected demand at the end of 2013 of about 15,000 megawatts, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussein al-Shahristani said.
"By the summer, we should be able to supply the network by 9,000 megawatts," he told AFP in an interview in his office in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone. "The demand is about 14,000 megawatts, so there is a shortage of 5,000 megawatts."
"We hope before the end of 2013, our total production would reach almost 20,000 megawatts ... so we should be able to meet all the demand in the country," he said.
Shahristani said at that point, Iraq would stop importing electricity.
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"On the contrary, we'll be looking for export markets by then," he said.
The deputy premier noted, however, that Iraq would once again have to supply private generator operators with fuel to force them to sell power at cut-price rates during Iraq's boiling summer, after a $400-million programme to do so last year was "really quite successful."
"The shortfall would be met by local private generators who are going to be supplied by fuel and expected to produce the difference between the demand and supply, and make it available to the people at a fixed price as we did last year," Shahristani said.
He said the plan would cost less than last year, but did not give a specific estimate.
Nine years after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq still suffers from a severe shortage of electricity.
Iraqis are left with the choice of having only a few hours of electricity per day in a country where temperatures top 50 degrees in the summer, or getting extra power from private generators.