Gaza has been suffering from an acute shortage of electricity for years. The crisis has become an inextricable part of people’s daily lives. It affects everything – from the most mundane tasks, like charging cell phones and doing laundry, to major operations, like maintaining water and sanitation systems or industrial production. For years now, Gaza’s residents have had to adapt their lives according to when power is supplied to their homes. When supply is cut off, the few who can afford it use generators to meet basic needs.
In recent years, electricity in Gaza has been supplied on a rotating schedule of eight hours on, eight hours off. When demand rises, the number of hours in which power is supplied decreases. The climate crisis and extreme changes in temperature make matters worse. This summer temperatures have been higher, which raised demand and caused a greater shortage in supply; the supply of electricity dropped to five or six consecutive hours, with longer blackouts in between.
Gaza currently has two sources of electricity: 120 megawatts (MW) are purchased from Israel and delivered directly via power lines to the Strip. Until recently, another 65-75 MW were produced by three turbines at Gaza’s only power plant. The fuel required to run the power plant is funded by Qatar, purchased from Israel, and transported to Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing.
On July 31, the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority announced that Qatar would finance the cost of operating the fourth turbine at the plant during the month of August. The fourth turbine operated regularly (Hebrew) from 2004 until 2006, when Israel bombed the power station. The funds reportedly allocated by the Government of Qatar (more than three million dollars on top of the regular sum it pays) will cover the operation of the fourth turbine until September 5, increasing the power plant’s output to about 95 megawatts and allowing supply to run on an eight-hour rotational schedule. This would still fall far short of meeting the basic needs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where actual demand surpasses 500 MW.
In late July and early August, Palestinians in Gaza staged protests at various locations in the Strip, decrying the quality of life and demanding the authorities improve their living conditions. Finding a solution to the severe electricity crisis was foremost on the protesters’ agenda. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemned a ‘crackdown’ by local authorities on protesters and journalists, including use of force and arrests.
Among other factors, years of Israel’s movement restrictions on the Strip and deliberate economic warfare have resulted in conditions that seek to deny Gaza residents life with dignity. At a time when many countries around the world are taking steps to build their climate resilience, Palestinians in Gaza face an electricity crisis that affects every aspect of life and society, including the ability to cope with an increasingly harsh climate.