Gaza electricity distribution company: Unprecedented electricity crisis in Gaza

Many report receiving only three hours of electricity supply. Photo: Karl Schembri

Many report receiving only three hours of electricity supply. Photo: Karl Schembri

September 20, 2015. Since Thursday, September 10, electricity supply has been severely disrupted in several districts in the Gaza Strip as a result of fuel shortages and damage to electricity lines coming from Egypt and Israel. Since then, Gaza residents receive six hours of electricity supply for every 12 hours of blackouts. In some areas, people are reported to have only three hours of supply. The Gaza electricity distribution company claims disruptions in high tension lines from Egypt and Israel, along with a diesel shortage, have pushed Gaza’s electricity supply to less than 70% of need, and have caused an unprecedented electricity crisis in the Strip.

Fuel shortage
The Kerem Shalom commercial crossing was closed on Friday and Saturday, the 11th and 12th of September, for the weekend, and again on the following Monday and Tuesday for the Jewish New Year holiday. Fuel brought in during the days leading up to the closure of Kerem Shalom were not enough to operate the power station, resulting in a fuel shortage. The power station was shut down on Saturday. On Sunday, the crossing was opened to allow fuel through only, and 480,000 liters of diesel were brought in for Gaza’s private sector. An additional 180,000 liters of diesel were brought in for the power station, along with gasoline (or petrol) and cooking gas for the private sector.

Palestinian sources told Gisha that Gaza’s petrol agency advised gas station owners to provide an additional 80,000 liters of fuel, from their own reserves, to the power station. But this cannot sustain operating the power station at full capacity.

The Association of Gas Station Owners in Gaza has warned of fuel and cooking gas shortages because of Kerem Shalom shut downs over the Jewish holidays. Since Operation Protective Edge, Gaza has limited space for fuel reserves, which allow storing fuel for the weekends when supply is disrupted. The amount of fuel transported each day is enough for one day only. Gaza experiences fuel shortages every year over the Jewish high holidays. But this year, in addition to the fuel shortage, the Gaza electricity distribution company said last week that there have been disruptions to two lines from Israel that together supply 24 megawatt to the Gaza Strip.

Between July 30 and September 13, 10,554,716 liters of diesel have been brought in for the power station. This is a daily average of 229,450 (including weekends, when the crossing shuts down). Two turbines require some 350,000-360,000 liters of diesel a day. Even if both turbines at the power station were operating, they could only supply electricity for eight out of sixteen hours a day.

Disruptions in lines coming from Egypt
Most of the electricity for Gaza’s Rafah district comes through high-tension lines running from Egypt, and a very small proportion from the Gaza power station. Beginning Thursday, September 10, Egyptian military activity along the border caused disruptions in three of the electricity lines to Gaza. The result was a four day near black out in the district, with Rafah residents receiving electricity for only three to four hours in a 24-hour period.

Over the last few weeks, electricity supply from Egypt has suffered disruptions and malfunctions, mostly due to fighting in the northern Sinai desert and Egypt’s digging activities along the border in an effort to destroy tunnels. Rafah residents staged a protest in front the home of the city’s mayor and the Gaza power station, demanding the area be connected to the lines coming from Israel. However, last time Egyptian electricity supply was compromised, the Rafah district was connected to the Israeli lines, which resulted in disruptions in other districts in Gaza.

Diesel from Qatar
In July, Egypt agreed to renew the transport of diesel purchased in 2013 by the Qatari government for the Gaza power station. Transport had been halted due to instability in the Sinai desert. Of the 30 million liters purchased by Qatar, only 11 million were transported in 2013 and Egypt has agreed to transport 10 million more.

Qatari-purchased diesel has been brought in intermittently since August 4. The diesel is transported from Egypt to Israel through the Nitzana border crossing and from there to Gaza via Kerem Shalom. Between August 4 and September 6, 1,249,883 liters of diesel were intermittently brought into Gaza – an average of some 36,761 liters a day. This is just 12% of the 10 million liters of diesel that was approved for transfer.