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Peak Power: Iraq Taps GE To Bolster Its Electricity Infrastructure

Brett Nelson
August 24, 2020

Summers in Iraq are almost too hot to handle. As temperatures climb past 110 degrees, heavy demand for air conditioning can stretch the country’s power supply.

Now GE, in partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, is bringing some reliable relief. In late August, the two sides signed a pair of agreements — one to upgrade the nation’s key power plants, the other to fortify its electricity grid.

The deals — worth more than $1.2 billion — come amid the latest round of strategic talks between the United States and Iraq, spanning issues from economic policy to the coronavirus response, and will support Iraq’s ongoing efforts to bolster its power infrastructure.

“Our primary focus is delivering uninterrupted electricity, especially during summer months, to meet the needs of our people and industry,” said Majid Al-Emara, Iraq’s minister of electricity. “The new agreements with GE, a leader in power technology, are an ideal fit for our requirements and build on the strong partnership with GE to deliver more power for the nation.”

As part of the first agreement, GE will supply $500 million in parts and maintenance services for existing plants across the country that together sustain roughly 6 gigawatts of power. That’s on top of 1.5 GW of new capacity GE has added since last December, and the sustained delivery of 4.3 GW to meet peak summer demand.

To reinforce Iraq’s grid, GE Renewable Energy’s Grid Solutions will essentially link it to its neighbor Jordan’s grid, reducing overall congestion and ensuring dependable power supply. The $727 million contract — including the design and installation of high-voltage substations, overhead transmission lines and underground cables — aims to bring predictable power to support the reconstruction of regions still rebuilding from years of war.

Finally, GE will work with multiple export credit agencies to arrange more than $1 billion in financing for the projects.

GE has been energizing Iraq for a half century, installing its first gas turbine there in 1965. Yet just 10 years ago, some parts of the country still averaged only a few hours of electricity per day.

That’s when GE really stepped up: Since 2011 the company has helped Iraq bring 15 GW of power online, including up to 1.4 GW in areas liberated from the Islamic State group like Diyala and Mosul, and has arranged more than $2.4 billion in financing for energy-sector projects.

Today GE’s technology is responsible for 55% of Iraq’s electricity, and some 300 GE employees — nearly all local Iraqis — work across the country. But there’s still a lot more to do: Today most Iraqis have access to power just 12 to 16 hours a day, and only a few of the country’s regions can count on it around the clock.

“As demand for power increases in tune with a growing population and to support industries and developmental projects, identifying gaps and addressing them is our focal area. We are thankful to the Iraqi government for their confidence in our capabilities to deliver power where and when needed,” says Scott Strazik, CEO of GE Gas Power. “The new agreements will contribute to a more reliable and stronger power infrastructure, which is the top priority of the government.”

Image credit: Getty Images