- Title: Energy crisis leaves Gaza with barely four hours of power a day
- Date: 12th January 2017
- Summary: GAZA CITY, GAZA (JANUARY 10, 2017) (REUTERS) ISLAMIC WOMEN MOVEMENT PROTEST-HAMAS NEAR PALESTINIANS MINISTERS COUNCIL BUILDING PROTESTERS HOLDING SIGN READING (Arabic): "ENOUGH DARKNESS, ENOUGH SIEGE, ISLAMIC WOMEN MOVEMENT PROTEST-HAMAS" CHILD HOLDING SIGN READING (Arabic): "WHEN WILL THE ELECTRICITY PROBLEM BE SOLVED?!!"
- Embargoed: 26th January 2017 14:13
- Keywords: Palestinians Gaza energy crisis power
- Location: VARIOUS, GAZA AND WEST BANK
- City: VARIOUS, GAZA AND WEST BANK
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Living/Lifestyle,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA0025YRZ6TX
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: For weeks, Gazans have been making do with less than half their usual electricity supply - barely a few hours a day.
There is no sign of the shortages alleviating anytime soon, fuelling distress and frustration among the population.
Normally, Gaza's power alternates on eight-hour cycles, with generators providing electricity to those who can afford it in the down times.
But since late last year, there have been only three or four hours of electricity a day in total.
The costs of running generators have spiralled. People are trying to light and heat their homes with candles or by burning scrap wood.
Families wake in the middle of the night, when the power sometimes comes on, to take showers or wash clothes.
Mazen Abu Reyala, an unemployed fisherman and father of five, sat around a primitive stove with his children to warm themselves.
"I took from my parents the generator's battery. I told them only until I get a job and buy my own battery, I will keep it. I use it for light. When I returned home, they (his children) had candles lit, the other day they burnt the carpet. Should I wait until we get burned? Burn the whole house and themselves? What am I supposed to do? I cannot afford to even buy a battery," he said.
Some citizens blame Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza for the shortage, while Hamas officials blame the rival Palestinian Authority, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Some others point the finger at Israel.
Gaza requires 450-500 MegaWatts of power a day but is receiving barely a third of that. About 30 MW is produced by its own ageing power plant, 30 MW imported from Egypt and 120 MW supplied from Israel.
With temperatures dropping to four or five degrees centigrade at night, people are trying to run electric heaters and radiators, driving up power demand.
The local power plant was heavily damaged by Israeli bombing during a war in 2006 and remains only at about half of potential capacity. It could produce slightly more, but there are not enough funds to buy fuel to boost output.
With unpaid consumer bills of around $1 billion, the power company is not in a position to seek more credit.
Officials say they need $500 million to rehabilitate the power network. But with Israel and Egypt maintaining a tight blockade on Gaza, getting replacement parts is not even that straight forward.
The Palestinian Authority, which pays for power supplied by Israel and Egypt, normally transfers fuel to Gaza and exempts it from most taxes. But because of its own financial constraints, it is no longer offsetting all the tax, angering Hamas.
Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas was open to solutions.
The spokesman for the Palestinian government, Youssef al-Mahmoud, blamed Hamas and Israel for the crisis.
Israel's electricity company could supply more power, and has provisions in place to do so, but it has not been paid for all the electricity it has supplied in the past and wants financial guarantees before it delivers more.
Gaza's population of two million is growing increasingly angry. There have been protests and more are planned.
At night, Gaza is pitch black, with no street lights or electricity in most homes. On street corners, makeshift fires can be seen burning, with small crowds gathered for warmth.
The noise of generators can be heard from some factories and wealthier households, but most cannot afford to run diesel generators for 20 hours a day.
Bakery owner Haitham Badra said he had suffered huge losses because he had to buy more fuel for generators.
Tareq Lubbad, spokesman of the power company, said Gaza normally needed 450 MW a day, but that had increased due to high winter demand. He warned of deeper cuts to come.
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