Countries in North Africa and the Middle East need urgent reform in their power and water sectors. Lebanon, Iraq and Algeria have seen an upsurge in protests to power outages, water shortages or in some cases, both. All of this has highlighted the inadequacy of public services in these parts of the world.
The summer months are especially challenging for these countries as soaring temperatures drive electricity demand higher, causing ageing thermal power plants or weak and inefficient transmission and distribution facilities to trip, states GlobalData.
The situation in Lebanon is especially difficult, if not unprecedented. Two of its main thermal power plants, which supply around 40% of the country’s electricity, have shut operations twice within two months due to lack of fuel, plunging certain parts of the country into power outages of up to 22 hours a day.
While Lebanon has a renewable energy plan in place, it has installed barely 50MW of renewable energy, unlike fellow fossil-fuel-challenged countries Jordan and Morocco, which have each achieved double-digit renewable energy share in their electricity generation mix.
Jennifer Aguinaldo, energy and technology editor at GlobalData’s MEED, comments: “Lebanon’s future government will have to prioritise building renewable energy capacity to reduce fuel import bills. Equally important, the country will have to revamp its entire energy structure by addressing the subsidies regime and administrative and fiscal issues, particularly at state utility Electricite du Liban, and rampant illegal connections.”
Power outages and water shortages across the MENA region
In Iraq, protests erupted in early July due to power outages that affected even the more affluent areas of Baghdad. While demand has routinely outstripped Iraq’s electricity production in the summer months, alleged acts of sabotage on transmission and distribution networks exacerbated the loss of electricity in parts of the country in July.
Aguinaldo continues: “Despite the semi-annual power outage-related incidents and protests, Baghdad has yet to make a major breakthrough in terms of building renewable energy facilities, although the recent signing of an agreement with UAE-headquartered Masdar to develop about 2GW of renewable energy capacity is promising.”
In Algeria’s capital city Algiers, reports of people queuing for drinking water emerged recently as the country began rationing water supply due to the past three extraordinarily dry years with little rainfall. While the government has been making efforts to build small-scale water desalination plants across parts of the country, a more consistent strategy is required to avert a country-wide water crisis.
Aguinaldo adds: “The prevalent inadequacy of utilities and services in these countries reflect their governments’ failing strategies to combat bureaucracy, overhaul their investment legislations and attract foreign entities to invest in modernising their infrastructure. Until these changes are implemented, investors will be happy to invest elsewhere, and these protests are likely to remain an unfortunate summer staple.”