Days after the United States extended a sanctions waiver that enables Iraq to continue importing gas and electricity from Iran, Iraq announced that three thousand megawatts would soon be added to the country's power grid.
"Iraq will 'soon' add 3,000 megawatts of power to the country's electricity grid as it seeks to decrease dependence on imported Iranian gas," Iraq's spokesman for the Electricity Ministry, Ahmed Moussa al Abadi, told the country's official news agency on Friday, September 25.
The figure mentioned by Al Abadi is three times the amount of electricity that Iraq imports from Iran.
Al Abadi said that the ministry was working to diversify power generation and is proceeding with plans to connect the national grid with neighboring states.
Last year, Iraq signed a deal to connect its power network with GCC states to import 500 megawatts of power by 2020. A 300-kilometer (about 186 miles) power line will run from Kuwait to Iraq's southern port of Faw and be financed by the GCC, the Iraqi Electricity Ministry said at the time.
The majority of Iraq's domestic power production is generated by plants built in the 1970s and 1980s, with a few newer gas-powered stations built after 2003.
Al Abadi called the extension of the US sanctions waiver an opportunity for Iraq to strengthen production in its natural gas fields and ensure that the country's power plants are supplied with the needed fuel.
Meanwhile, Iraq burns and wastes seventeen billion cubic meters of its annual natural gas production due to a lack of gas collection technology. The natural gas wasted in Iraq is twice the amount of the product it imports from Iran.
A 2019 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that Iraq can produce 32 gigawatts of power but can only generate around sixteen gigawatts, of which around forty percent is lost in transmission due to aging infrastructure, and damage by ISIS when it controlled large areas of Iraq after 2014 also left lasting issues.
For several years, Iraq has been working with European, American, and Chinese companies to reduce the country's gas and electricity losses and end its dependency on Iranian electricity and gas imports.
Currently, about 31 percent of the gas used to generate power in Iraq is imported from Iran.
Official data shows Iraq's generation capacity at 16,000 megawatts, compared with the 24,000 to 30,000 megawatts needed to satisfy demand.
The US waiver will last sixty days.
The US informed Iraq's leadership last week of its decision to grant a sixty-day sanctions waiver, instead of the 120-day waiver issued over the summer, three Iraqi officials told The Associated Press.