UPI reports that electrical production and distribution in Iraq has reached a post-war high:
Nationwide, average electricity not provided by private generators was 107,581 megawatt hours from September through November, according to the U.S. Defense Department's "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" report released Tuesday.
That's a 14 percent increase over the same time frame last year and included an all-time, post-2003 high of 125,000 megawatt hours on Oct. 12, 2007.
But this has only translated into an average of 15.1 hours of electricity per day across the country, with many provinces, including Baghdad, receiving less. Salah al-Din province, north of Baghdad, received the most average electricity with about 19.1 hours per day in November, according to the Pentagon report.
The use of private generators for a home or block is still prevalent, adding to the run on fuels that are in high demand but low supply in Iraq, a result of slow development of both the electricity and oil sectors.
While those numbers are certainly encouraging, there's an important element missing from this --and all other stories on efforts to rebuild the Iraqi power grid. There's a major reason that many areas of Iraq experience daily blackouts, and it's not the result of limited generating capacity, insurgent attacks, or an aging transmission network. Rather, it's the result of an important change in electrical distribution, instituted by U.S. and Iraqi authorities after the country was liberated.
Under that approach, electricity is distributed much more equitably across the country. During Saddam's reign, Baghdad and its environs received most of the nation's electrical supply, allowing the lights to stay on around the clock. Meanwhile, outlying areas received little power, sometimes only a couple of hours a day. With the new distribution scheme providing more electricity to those regions, Iraqis in urban areas have experienced more blackouts--something that was fairly rare when Saddam Hussein was in power.
Clearly, Iraq still has a way to go in modernizing its power grid and providing continuous electrical service to all areas. But describing the frequent blackouts as a result of the war or the U.S. occupation isn't fair, or accurate. In reality, those outages (partly) reflect a concerted effort to provide more electricity across Iraq. Now, it's a matter of building enough plants and transmission lines to provide round-the-clock service, and sustaining a security environment to protect the power grid.