Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Power blackout in Gaza as Egypt stops fuel smuggling

 The Gaza Strip’s sole electricity station has become inoperative because Egypt has begun to crack down on fuel smuggling activities through their shared border, a Palestinian energy official in Gaza said Tuesday.
Gaza Energy Authority official Ahmed Abul Amreen said in a press conference that the authority cannot meet electricity demands for hospitals, educational facilities, and water and sewage stations. He said the amount of electricity Gaza receives from an Israeli company fulfills only 35 percent of the population’s needs.
Palestinian news agency Maan quoted Abul Amreen as saying that the power plant’s inactivity has brought the strip’s primary electricity source to a halt, noting that Gaza already suffers a great shortage in wattage supplies.
The official held Israel responsible for the crisis. He also called upon the Egyptian Parliament to back Palestinians and continue to support them with the necessary fuel supplies.
Abul Amreen said an energy authority delegation that recently met with Egyptian officials received pledges that fuel supplies would resume.
Abul Amreen also stressed that a drastic solution for Gaza’s energy crisis would be to include the strip in an electricity linkage plan approved by the Arab League more than two years ago. He urged that the project begin immediately given the availability of the blueprints and funds required.
For nearly two weeks, Gaza has been undergoing a worsening fuel crisis caused by a halt in supplies smuggled through underground tunnels traversing its border with Egypt. The conundrum has rendered 90 percent of local oil stations idle.
Israel supplies Gaza with about 120 megawatts of electricity a day, while the strip’s only power plant produces 60 megawatts. But since Gaza needs at least 270 megawatts, the strip suffers daily blackouts that can last for eight hours.
The Israeli and Egyptian closure of Gaza’s borders in 2007 severely restricted its fuel supply. Fuel was first smuggled through tunnels from Egypt and eventually used in electricity generation after a local engineer developed a refining process. The engineer was later abducted by Israeli intelligence agents during a trip to Ukraine, Maan said. More