Electricity supply in Gaza Strip reduced to six-hour intervals only

Gaza’s sole power plant. Electricity supply in Gaza Strip reduced to six-hour intervals only

Gaza’s sole power plant. Photo by Gisha.

April 19, 2017. Gaza’s sole power plant shut down on Saturday night and has not renewed operations since. Funds donated by Qatar and Turkey, which allowed fuel supplies to be purchased from Israel for the plant, have been exhausted. Gaza’s Energy Authority announced that it will not purchase additional supply until the Palestinian Authority grants it full exemption from excise taxes on fuel.

According to the Strip’s Energy Authority, shutting down the power plant has led to further reduction in electricity supply, which was already severely limited. Now, every six hours of electricity supply will be followed by a 12-hour blackout (compared to the eight consecutive hours previously provided for). On Monday, one of the power lines from Egypt was impaired, resulting in electricity intervals as short as four hours for every 12-hour blackout.

Deputy Chairman of Gaza’s Energy Authority Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil made an assessment, posted to the authority’s website, according to which the monthly cost of operating two of the power plant’s generators is 50 million shekels (roughly 13.6 million dollars). If the tax on fuel is lifted, the monthly cost will only be 20 million shekels (roughly 5.5 million dollars).

Gaza purchases 120 megawatts of electricity from Israel and 28 megawatts from Egypt. When the power plant is active, it supplies a further 60 megawatts. It is estimated that demand for electricity in the Strip is 400 megawatts.

The current electricity crisis is yet another reminder of the dire state of Gaza’s infrastructure, the product of many years of neglect. The crisis emphasizes the immediate need for coordination and cooperation between the multiple parties who share responsibility for controlling civilian life in the Strip. A report by Gisha published earlier this year analyzes the various factors which have caused the deterioration of Gaza’s infrastructure and reviews the roles played by de facto Hamas government in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the international community, and most of all Israel. The report also presents recommendations for practical solutions for improvement of Gaza’s electricity and water infrastructure.

And where is Israel in all of this? The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav Mordechai, recently made a statement lamenting the fuel shortage in Gaza and the consequent harm caused to residents of Gaza. His announcement presents Israel as if it were a neutral observer to the situation. As the primary bearer of control over Gaza for the last 50 years, Israel has the power to change things for the better. The significant control it maintains over life in the Strip should compel it to actively do so.