Rafiq Maliha, Project Manager at the Gaza Power Generation Company (GPGC) heaves a heavy sigh before beginning his description of the current situation at the Gaza Power Plant. Apparently he’s been over this quite a few times already.
Maliha, who holds a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from the Middle East Technical University in Turkey, has worked in various positions in the electricity sector in Gaza over the past 14 years.
“Originally, the Gaza Power Plant was designed with an output capacity of 140 megawatts of electricity,” he explains. “Throughout its years of operation, the plant’s maximum output level was 118 megawatts. That was in 2006, just before Israel bombed the power plant and destroyed all six transformers”.
Since then the damage has been partially repaired, but another problem has arisen: Since November 2007, Israel has restricted the transfer of industrial diesel to the Gaza Strip. This diesel can only be used to operate a power plant and it is paid for by the European Union. Thus, a power plant that requires 3.5 million liters per week has been forced to operate on 2.2 million liters per week – 63% of the necessary amount. This causes power outages lasting 6-8 hours, four days a week, with which Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip must contend.
“Throughout the month of Ramadan we worked differently,” explains Maliha. “Since it was very hot and the peak consumption and shortage hours were in the evening – due mostly to cooking – we used up reserves of industrial diesel which we accumulated beforehand in order to ease the impact of the shortage on the residents”.
Immediately after the conclusion of the month-long festival, he explained, the power plant was forced to return to its previous level of operation, due to a supply of industrial diesel sufficient to generate only 55-60 megawatts of electricity.
“What do I need most?” he asks rhetorically, “I need fuel. And also spare parts. We have no other alternative”.
How does he view the future? “It’s hard to look ahead and make plans. Even if we had a plan, we wouldn’t be able to carry it out due to the restrictions. It’s a complicated situation. Right now we are just taking things one week at a time”.