Gaza plunges into a vortex of electricity crisis again
Gaza- Without stable and continuous electricity, hospitals turn into cemeteries. With these words, and with great concern, the Director of Al-Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya, expressed his fears that the only power plant would stop working completely.
The Energy Authority in Gaza was forced to stop one of the 3 main generators at the power station, yesterday, Sunday, and issued serious warnings to stop the station, due to the lack of Qatari diesel supplies since November 2.
The besieged sector has entered into a stifling electricity crisis since the power plant was exposed to an Israeli bombardment in 2006, and this crisis intensifies and decreases according to the availability of diesel supplies designated to operate the station, while Qatari grants have contributed to alleviating its severity during the past years.
Life-threatening danger to patients
Abu Salmiya – to Al Jazeera Net – said, “The lives of many patients depend on the availability of electricity around the clock, especially those in the intensive care departments, the dialysis unit, the nursery, and other vital departments and oxygen generating stations.”
The director of Al-Shifa Medical Complex, which is the largest in the Gaza Strip and includes 3 major hospitals, confirmed that the failure of the power plant forces them to resort to difficult and expensive alternatives, such as private generators that require large amounts of fuel.
Al-Shifa Complex needs 400 liters of diesel per hour to operate its various sections, and what is currently available in its stores is sufficient for a period of 5 to 7 days only.
Abu Salmiya said, “The lives of thousands of patients are at stake, and if the crisis occurs, the danger threatens them in real.”
According to the Energy Authority, the percentage of the deficit in the Gaza Strip’s electricity needs is about 55%, and it may reach 70% if the power plant stops working completely.
Two million Palestinians in Gaza currently depend on two main sources of electricity, the first via the Israeli lines, which provide 120 megawatts, and the second is provided by the local power station, estimated at 70 megawatts, while the Egyptian electricity line, which provided less than 30 megawatts, is still suspended since 2018.
According to the Director of Public Relations and Media at the Electricity Distribution Company, Mohamed Thabet, the sector needs about 450 megawatts of electricity in normal time, and its needs increase to 550 megawatts in the winter season.
Because of this large shortage in electricity supply, several sources of electricity have emerged in Gaza over the past years, the most common of which are currently commercial investment generators scattered on the streets.
In light of widespread poverty and unemployment rates, many Gazans cannot rely on commercial generators as a source of electricity, due to their high cost, which amounts to 4 shekels per kilo, compared to only half a shekel for public electricity (one dollar is equivalent to 3.11 shekels).
Thabet estimates the value of what Gazans have spent on alternative energy means, such as private and commercial generators, solar energy, and others, at about $1.5 billion since the beginning of the escalation of the crisis in 2006.
Thabet – to Al Jazeera Net – said that the electricity file in Gaza is witnessing turmoil and includes many surprises, which may occur at any moment, and the company is working with its capabilities to optimally exploit what it has of energy quantities, and distribute it fairly to the population and various sectors .
He added, “It is not known precisely the real reason for the suspension of the Qatari diesel supply to the power plant,” but it is certain that “the continuation of this halt will result in serious catastrophic repercussions.”
Thabet stressed that stopping the station from operating completely will have serious negative effects on all aspects of life, especially vital sectors such as hospitals, oxygen generating stations, water pumps, sewage treatment, and industrial, economic and agricultural sectors that will be greatly affected by the crisis.
Operating the power plant, which was established with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, requires 650,000 liters of diesel per day to operate 4 generators to produce their full capacity estimated at 90 to 100 megawatts, according to Thabet.
Thabet says that there are solutions that may be quick and constitute a way out – albeit temporarily – from the suffocating crisis, which is to address the provision of electricity transmission lines from Egypt, to permanently secure diesel for the power plant in Gaza, and to develop what is known as the 161 line that carries electricity from Israel.
Since the tightening of the siege on Gaza in mid-2007, Israel has not allowed the supply of sufficient quantities of fuel for the station, until Qatar, during the past three years, sponsored humanitarian grants, part of which was allocated to finance the station’s fuel, the last of which was an emirical grant of 360 million dollars for operational and humanitarian projects. And part of it to save fuel during 2021.