Gaza faces 12-hour blackouts as power plant shuts down

Published July 21st, 2015 - 12:47 GMT

The Gaza Strip was reduced to eight hours of electricity per day on Tuesday after its sole power plant shut down because it was unable to afford PA-imposed taxes. 

The Gaza distribution network will provide just six hours of electricity for every 12 hours without, averaging eight hours a day. It previously provided 12 hours a day, supplying and cutting electricity in eight-hour intervals.

Sources told Ma'an that there is currently no dialogue between Gaza's energy authority and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, meaning the energy crisis is likely to continue. 

The energy authority said on Wednesday that it had asked the PA's petroleum authority to transfer one million liters of fuel that it would pay for later, but the Ramallah-based organization reportedly refused.

The authority said that its last financial allowance for purchasing fuel was made on Wednesday last week and it has not been able to make any payments since.

The energy authority has in particular criticized a PA-imposed tax on fuel sold to Gaza that amounts to a 50 percent hike on the price of fuel. 

The energy authority said Tuesday that it has asked the unity government for an exemption from the tax for a year while it improves its bill collection and financial strategy, but the government was not reported to have responded. 

In the four months to the end of Ramadan, the unity government waved the tax in a show of good will, but the Gazan energy authority said in a statement Monday that since the tax had been reinstated it could no longer afford to keep the plant running. 

It added that it had only been able to cover the cost of maintaining the plant during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and the Eid holiday by borrowing from local companies and taking loans from banks.

Gaza has been facing an ongoing energy crisis for months, with residents of the coastal enclave provided only a fraction of the energy needed.

Separately on Monday, 25 percent of the coastal enclave's energy supply was reportedly cut off when two power grids run by Israel shut down due to a technical error.

Gaza currently receives electricity from Israel, Egypt, and its power plant, although the plant has struggled to cover its costs for months. 

Earlier this year, the power plant closed down for more than a month in March when the Gazan energy authority was unable to cover the tax.

The amount was previously covered by Qatar, which in December donated $10 million to the PA to exempt the energy authority from paying the tax. 

Although the power plant inside Gaza has a potential output of 120 MW, it has been unable to produce that much due to Israeli restrictions on fuel imports as part of an eight-year blockade. 

Last summer the plant was targeted during the 50-day Israeli offensive on Gaza, completely knocking it out of commission. Gaza's energy authority said at the time that the damages from the attack could take up to a year to fix completely.


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