By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 27 July 2013:
“I think everybody knows what many have been calling the Electricity Minister”, opened Electricity Minister Ali Muhairig at last week’s press conference.
The statement, probably coming out of the blue and as an opening remark too, caught his boss sitting next to him, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, by surprise, causing him to laugh considerably – live on TV.
The beleaguered Electricity Minister has come in for heavy ridicule on the social network sites due to the chronic power cuts in Western and Southern Libya, with some areas reporting up to 12 hours of power cuts.
Ali Muhairig thanked the employees in the electricity sector for their extraordinary efforts in hard circumstances in repairing and maintaining electricity supply to the public during the fasting month of Ramadan.
The Minister felt that the media was not playing its fair role in reflecting the realities and difficulties behind the power cuts. For example, he revealed that the his sector had suffered more than LD 1 bn’s worth of damage during the revolution.
The Minister reported that the Central Control headquarters, which controls all electricity supply within Libya, was attacked last Monday by an armed group. The Minister also revealed that there was a second attack on the same day on the Tripoli South station with the electricity company vehicles being stolen. And these are only yesterday’s attacks, stressed the embattled minister.
He also reported on an attack on the Garabuli power station and the Sirte power station which was destroyed with everything stolen. “Employees are working round the clock” to return services to normal, he stressed.
The Minister stressed that the power cuts only occurred in the south and the west of the country. He highlighted the fact that whilst the Zueitina oil and gas terminal strike had ended last week, “no sooner than his press conference had ended than another armed group had occupied Zueitina port and stopped fuel supplies to power stations”.
“Therefore we are back to square one”, noted the minister. We were receiving 315 m cubic meters of gas, now we are receiving only 190. “These are facts”, stressed the minister, in reply to media reports from Zueitina employees that gas supplies had not been stopped and that the minister was being disingenuous in blaming them for the power cuts.
The Minister reiterated his call that there should be no industrial action at strategic sites that affect all Libyans.
Minister Muhairig said that in his opinion the mobile APR generators had been installed in a record time. He announced that two were now operational in the southern town of Samnu and that there were still four in Khoms slated to go into action Friday. There are two more to come on line in Zliten which would give a capacity of 250 MW. “We have three shifts working around the clock”, he stressed.
“We cannot create miracles. We have no control over things outside our sphere”, he said referring to repeated attacks on electricity installations, robbery of property and copper cables and the cutting off of gas supplies to power stations.
“Some generators have been operating for 50,000 hours and had not been serviced since 2011”, the Minister said. We are unable to service them since the Siemens and Alstom personnel are unwilling to travel to Libya due to the security situation”.
Power cuts should not be more than 2-3 hours, he said and that if they are, it is because of other factors such as industrial action, attacks or temporary faults. He referred to the JrabaStreet (Ben Ashour) 12 hour power cut saying that that was due to a fault and that employees worked 6 hours continuously until they returned power.
With regards to the complaint that the east of Libya was not sharing in the power cuts, Minister Muhairig explained that the most consumption in Libya was in the greater Tripolitania area and that between 400-500 MW of excess generation was being transferred from the east to the west. For technical reasons and the way the grid system was designed, that was the limit of what could be transferred from the east, he explained.
The Electricity Minister expressed his surprise at the high rate of increased electricity consumption in Libya. He explained that in 2012 total consumption was 5,600 MW and that this had shot up to 6,200 MW by last Saturday. This was a huge leap of up to 25% in some areas, he explained, blaming part of it on the fact that Libyans don’t pay their electricity bills.
Unplanned buildings including the springing up of rows of shops were another reason. Unplanned building means that the electricity company cannot forecast and plan in advance for future consumption, he explained.
The minister was happy to highlight the fact that he was responsible for supplying power to the water supply of the nation, and that this has been operating normally.
Concluding, the Minister stressed that this is what he can do in such a short period of time and that he regarded what his personnel had done as a record achievement. [/restrict]