Reforming Iraq’s National Grid – an expert opinion

My-wish,-image-1by Dr. Basil Al-Fakhri, former Expert at Electricity Power Commission-IRAQ [1988-1989], consultant in Western power Utility, KBR consultant and SMEC consultant-Australia[2004-2012].

This feature is designed to be an evaluation of the power generation and delivery capacity of Iraq – with suggestions in terms of how to deal with long-term problems.


  1. It is my belief that the Ministry of Electricity [ME] needs to engage with international consulting firms (this is what happens with oil contracts). These consultation periods should last no less than 10 years and should explore planning, studies, production, transmission, and distribution. It is suggested that countries such as Britain, Sweden, Germany, France and Japan. should take the lead in this as they have accumulated expertise for systems which can be implemented in Iraq. In addition, these consulting utilities firm possess advanced training in power generation and supply, and hence this will put Iraq on the right track also. Indeed, if we plan wisely we can leapfrog other nations in the region – overtaking Libya and Jordan, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia as market leaders. Implementation of the right kind of technology at every stage will of course play a crucial part.


  1. Enhance planning in order to ensure the reliability of large power plants
  • System-wide studies of power plants (with units 200 megawatts and above) and 400/132 kV network should be stress tested with reference to the likelihood of black out. Considerations should include technical error. It should also be noted that blackouts (Ref.1)happened  in much more developed regions also. In the USA and European countries for example systems are very reliable compared to the Iraqi modest power system, but still blackouts still occurred in 1960-1970s New York, London and Scandinavia.
  • The difference is that blackout in developed nations tends to be isolated. This is because they link into other parts of the grid and because reliability is considered in their studies before any implementation on the ground. In the case of Iraq when the exit line to 400kV or 600-megawatt-generating unit as in Wasit power station (under construction) went out of the service, the whole power system collapses – leading to a wide-spread blackout. Take the Musayeb power station south of Baghdad – as an example; we see a double line of 400 which is the only 400kV double line on the system. When this was out of service in 2013, continual blackouts occurred across the whole system.
  • We must plan carefully, fully preparing for any occurrence. It is not acceptable that neighbouring Arab states should lead the way, instead we should recruit then right kind of skills-set to protect what we have and grow it.  For example, in a Western power network utility of Perth, Australia , there are typically 20 engineers designated to protecting energy transfer we need to find similar numbers. I experienced this first hand when I worked there for 3 years (2004-2008). We need to learn from experience and also think of new ideas in terms of protecting Iraq’s electricity supply!


The restructuring of the Ministry

This can be done by following steps:

  1. Electricity distribution needs to be separated out form the central from the central Ministry and instead be linked to its provinces. Privatisation should then be implemented with a focus on converting to a mixed sector with specialized foreign companies like Siemens, and Alstom; able to support maintenance, operation and limited planning. At the same time producing comprehensive studies that can be held at HQ.
  2. Privatization must be implemented to create the huge modern power plants we need. We might consider working with investment with companies specializing as in Um Al Nar power station(2) in Abu Dhabi (since 1980s).
  3. HQ should be connected into:
  • Ongoing planning and studies
  • A national control centre with direct links to the huge plants with a 200-Megawatt(MW) units and over 400kV networks ( in the future up to 700kV). It should also have links to the regional control centres. The se in turn would be  hooked up to the networks of 132kV units, and generate less power, i.e. 200MW or less.
  • To establish a Board of Directors at the Ministry – (representatives from ministries and other relevant bodies, such as the Central Bank as adopted before 1975) responsible for massive construction worth $US50 million or more only. With these huge tenders, the whole picture should not be shared until final recommendations. Instead, the technical and financial offer should be considered in isolation. This approach means that the recommendation to the Governing Council will be based on what really are the best deals. This kind of practice already has global precedent. For example the World Bank and other institutions have used this approach as it ensures the impartiality and transparency of assignment (it is a powerful way of avoiding corruption also).
  1. There should be education around solar energy(Ref.3-6) to aid its implementation in homes, school buildings, hospitals, laboratories in cities villages and rural areas. It can be used for water heating whilst also powering other needs such as household, agricultural, industrial and commercial. In order to do this former military manufacturing companies should be employed. They have with experience and practice of driving wide scale implementations. Added to this we should use private sector companies able to manufacture solar panels. This shouldn’t be a short term, feel-good exercise, instead it should be taken seriously. Our country is blessed by the grace of the Sun throughout the year and we should make use of it. If cool countries like Europe, America are able to do it, we should be to. It is worth considering that even oil States like Abu Dhabi are working to create sustainable energy with their Masdar City project.
  2. Bekhma Dam (Ref.7)

The completion of this vital project on the Tigris for clean energy and conservation must be priority for both central and regional government. It should be noted that the project was with the Development Board 1955-1975. Implementation was then attempted by the former regime before 1991. It was then interrupted by the Kuwait war. Now it faces opposition within regional government on the pretext of insufficient financial resources.

  1. Create mixed companies for maintenance and operating standards, with dissemination throughout the provinces by:-
  • Ensuring technical HR management, and financial management is carried out by people with the right skills and qualifications
  • Updating and the employment and development of maintenance programmes to increase proficiency

7. Power generation should be seen as a vital discipline and the top 25% of graduates should be encouraged to participate in this work. This should be done in conjunction with universities – with a particular focus on engineering and computing disciplines along with (tertiary) engineering management and technical institutes. Training centres should be set up in all parts of Iraq centres supported by international organizations such as the United Nations, and the Jayka of   Adequate education levels should be insisted upon, with nothing less than a high school certificate accepted even at the more rudimentary levels.

8. Citizens should be encouraged, maybe even through subsidies to buy with economic electrical appliances, with low energy consumption and efficient certified reliability. Legislation should be introduced to avoid the import of inefficient devices that lack proper provenance and efficiency certification.

9.We are now in the 21st century. Our communication strategies should therefore be mainly digital – focussing on Email etc, rather than paper for example. All correspondence with reference to redistribution of electricity in the provinces should be kept to a ‘physical’ minimum. Both technical and managerial accounting can be done by introducing computers in each attachment office. Specialised programmes can then be set up by hired in programmers and operators. They would also carry out maintenance, for example:

  • Use of software reliability [smart meters]to determine when to replace the driven circuit breaker/transformer etc. ( problems at power stations are generally caused by an overload of energy or lack of maintenance).
  • Use Microsoft Project in project time scheduling.
  • Use Auto-CAD in engineering drawing in power engineering design services.
  • Local power contractors (electricians) must be licences if they are to work – ie. Installing systems in homes and factories. These licences should only be given if they and their associates have participated in accredited courses of technical institutes (or equivalent). This will ensure good performance and safety standards to match the developed world. It will also make electricity consumption more economical and sustainable in the long term.


The points I make are just a beginning, there is much to be done.  They are designed to encourage the Ministry to look at things over a longer time period.  I would welcome discussion and am happy to provide more insight/ information on request.


References :

1)  ألاطفاء الكامل في العالم
2) / الاستثمار في محطة ام النار في ابو ظبي
3) مدينة مصدر في ابو ظبي
4) خبير دولي لـ «الشرق الأوسط»: الطاقة الشمسية وحدها كفيلة بضمان أمن الطاقة العالمي

5) استخدام الطاقة الشمسية في القرى والارياف
6) الشمس العربية التي ستجهز اوربا ب15% من احتياجها خلال عام 2050
7)  سد بخمة
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