People in Kalak, Kurdistan Region, halt traffic on July 7, 2018, to protest electricity shortages. Photo: Mohammed Shwani | AFP
DOHUK, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Region will explore a pay-as-you-go system to address insufficient electricity supplies in Duhok, but the proposal has already drawn skepticism on social media.
With temperatures rising above 45 degrees Celsius in July and the continued sheltering of more than 1.3 million IDPs and refugees, electricity availability has reduced across the Kurdistan Region.
Last week, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said his government is providing more electricity, but receives a small amount back in fees.
Depending on the area, the KRG says it offers 10-15 hours of electricity in the summer, and 24 hours of electricity in the winter, but users often don't see that, so they turn to private generators, which rely on private fuel, whose prices have increased.
Kamal Mohammed, an engineer and the director general of Duhok electricity, told Rudaw the government is trying to address the issue.
“We reassure people that everyone will benefit from this project and the electricity supply will be better. No one can trick the prepaid cards. We will cut the electricity of those who don’t pay," he said.
Duhok has 16 IDP and four refugee camps — the most in the Kurdistan Region. They shelter 326,258 IDPS, and 78,875, according to the government's most recent statistics from May.
“The KRG made a big mistake initially by providing them with electricity, water and other services. Human rights organizations and the Iraqi government should have been pushed to do this," said Mohammed.
Some 98 percent of all Syrians who came to Iraq during the ISIS conflict came to the Kurdistan Region. KRG officials have repeatedly asked for international assistance to ease the many burdens of sheltering 1.8 million IDPs and refugees throughout the conflict. The influx effectively increased the number of people in the Kurdistan Region by around 30 percent.
"If they were without electricity and water, the UN and Iraqi government would have helped them out. But we helped them out early. So far, the cost of electricity supplied to them is 64 billion dinars. They undermined the Kurdistan Region’s economic infrastructure,” he said.
Several companies based in the Kurdistan Region sell electricity to nearby Nineveh province where blackouts are fewer.
“It is true that electricity conditions in Mosul are better than in Kurdistan. And this is because KAR and Qaiwan companies sell 400 megawatts of electricity to Mosul daily. We as the KRG cannot buy electricity. But they are investors doing business. We cannot buy it from them. That is why they sell it to other parties," said Mohammed.
People in Kurdistan have held public protests for the lack of services.
“We won’t charge people for setting up the prepaid method, nor will we increase the electricity charges. The benefit of using this method is to collect the electricity charges. We will cut the electricity supply through the prepaid system to those who fail to pay their charges for three months,” Mohammed said.
The KRG’s prepaid proposal has drawn criticism on social media.
“We reassure people that everyone will benefit from this project and electricity supply will be better and no one can trick the cards. And we will cut the electricity of those who don’t pay,” Mohammed said.
Although the full details haven't been revealed, the system is expected to be similar to the method for prepaid phones, internet cards, or for those who use pay-as-you-go systems for generator electricity in housing complexes.
“The electricity infrastructure in Kurdistan has no problems. Power stations, especially the private sector ones, can provide electricity for 24 hours. They can even produce more electricity than Kurdistan needs, 200 more megawatts of electricity. But the government cannot buy it from them,” Mohammed said.