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Delivering efficient power for Iraq

Joseph Anis, President & CEO, Power Services, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, GE Power, speaks to UME about GE’s strategy to address power shortage in Iraq

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Joseph Anis, President & CEO, Power Services, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, GE Power
Joseph Anis, President & CEO, Power Services, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, GE Power

What are the major challenges of Iraq’s energy ecosystem?

The key challenge for Iraq today is to address the deficit in electricity generation. It is estimated that the demand for power will reach 35,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030, while the total production as of July 2018 stands at 15,900 MW, which is the highest in recent months, led by concerted efforts to rebuild electricity infrastructure and strengthen the operational efficiency of power plants – in which GE Power has been playing a central role. The shortage of electricity is estimated to cost about US$3 to 4 billion a year, and today, the government is focused on building a strong power infrastructure that will meet the needs of people as well as industry.

This challenge has been the result of many factors, including the damage inflicted on several plants during the crisis years. Several power plants have aging fleet, which need to be upgraded or replaced to achieve optimal efficiency to ramp up power production. The challenge has also been confounded through issues relating to securing financing for rebuilding plants in areas that were impacted by the conflict.

At GE Power, we are committed to supporting Iraq in overcoming these challenges, and we have been working with the government authorities and our partners to rebuild damaged plants, upgrade power plants with advanced technology, and also support in securing financing.

How can Iraq make best use of its power generation assets?

Reinvigorating the electricity infrastructure calls for enhancing the operational efficiency and productivity of the power plants by deploying proven technologies, such as Advanced Gas Path (AGP) upgrades that can help to increase a plant’s power output by up to 6%.

There must also be a focused effort on converting simple cycle plants to combined cycle – which helps not only boost production but also brings greater fuel flexibility. Rigorous maintenance standards must be built-in to every power plant, and the potential offered by energy storage – such as GE’s Reservoir solution which offers flexible, modular battery storage – must be explored.

Clearly, all this calls for a comprehensive approach rather than a piecemeal strategy – and that is what we have been focused on in Iraq, where our ‘Power Up Plan’ for the country, implemented in 2016 and 2017, contributed to the increase in efficiency, output, reliability and performance of several existing plants. We had also undertaken maintenance contracts of power plants as well as deployed advanced digital technology enhancements as part of the plan.

What role can new power plants play in powering Iraq?

Iraq has a great opportunity to set new industry benchmarks through new power plants that deploy the latest advances in power generation today. A game changer in this regard is our HA technology, the world’s largest and most efficient gas turbine that is already being deployed in several countries in the region. Our HA technology is recognized for powering the world’s most efficient power plants in both the 60Hz and 50Hz segments and can serve as a great fit for Iraq’s new large-scale power plants.

Secondly, for some remote areas in the country, connection to central grids is extremely challenging. The solution can be “Fast Power” plants, such as GE’s TM2500, that are designed for decentralized power generation with high efficiency. With easy plug & play installation, these mobile units also allow to respond quickly to emergency situations, like generating backup power during natural disaster relief, and also plant shutdowns or grid instability.

Fast Power units like the TMs are one way of getting power to remoter areas, but this cannot be the only solution. What else does Iraq need to bring power quickly to all parts of the country?

Iraq no doubt needs a comprehensive portfolio of solutions. The country has to invest in strengthening the electricity grid and also explore the potential that can be unlocked through digital solutions. Battery storage solutions, mentioned above such as GE Reservoir and smart grids should be part of the solution, along with an integrated digital grid management system.

Further, there must a comprehensive plan to reduce transmission and distribution losses as well as other bottlenecks that have stymied the sector.

What other challenges need to be solved to get?

While investing in new infrastructure and improving existing plants are priorities, it is important that the country also focuses on local capability building. It is important to nurture the next generation of talents for the industry as well as to empower the current professional base on the advances in power technology. Skills-building, especially in digital technologies, is crucial to shaping a secure future for the power industry and helping to make the country more self-reliant.

There are also challenges relating to securing financing, as mentioned, and GE had partnered with the Government of Iraq to help secure $2 billion in financing for projects in the energy sector. We also encouraged more than five ECAs and multi-laterals to participate in financing power projects.

What is GE doing to help the country solve its energy challenges?

GE has been a key partner in powering Iraq for the past fifty years. We have been working extensively in building the power sector infrastructure through the provision of our advanced technology and service. We have a team of over 300 in Iraq and have a strong execution track-record working in the toughest of circumstances across the nation. To date, close to 300 GE turbines have been installed across Iraq contributing up to 60% of the current electricity production in the country.

Complementing the ‘Power Up Plan’ mentioned earlier, we have been working with the Ministry of Electricity to restore and rebuild power plants damaged in the conflict. These include the Mansurya Power Plant in Diyala, which is now expected to generate up to 720 MW of electricity powered by four units of GE’s GT13E2 gas turbines. We also supported the restoration of operations at another damaged power plant in Mosul, and we are rebuilding the Al-Qayara Power Plant by providing six new 9E gas turbines.

We have supplied the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity with 56 more gas turbines for various projects, which generate about 7,600 MW to support the expansion of the country’s energy infrastructure and help drive future economic growth.

Our Advanced Gas Path (AGP) upgrade of turbines has enabled power plants in the country to strengthen output and reduce downtime. We also invest in local capacity, having been training Iraqi engineers and power sector professionals, and we continue to do so.

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