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Iran’s Problematical Electricity Shortage Under the Clerical Regime

By Aladdin Touran

Iran is the victim of successive blackouts and power outages of the national grid. While the country ranked 12th in the world last year in terms of electricity generation, people struggle with frequent and unannounced blackouts in the heat of summer. The situation has shocked even the ruling regime with cries of “Death to Khamenei” in the east of Tehran following the power outage on July 3rd. 

The outgoing Minister of Energy Ardakanian of Hassan Rouhani’s government said that the power outage was due to the premature warming of the air and the decrease in rainfall. 

Mohammad Hassan Motavilizadeh, CEO of Tavanir, on April 23 said that  the reduction in the volume of water in dam reservoirs, which reduces the production of hydropower by 40%, as an essential factor in electricity shortages. 

Meanwhile, the former Minister of Energy, who had gone to the Parliamentary Energy Commission to present explanations, blamed the currency cryptocurrency extraction (bitcoin) for the lack of electricity. He complained that 3,600 unauthorized cryptocurrency extraction centers were identified that consume 570 megawatts of electricity. 

While cunningly apologizing to the people for the shortage, the mullahs’ now outgoing president Hassan Rouhani at the same time, mockingly stated that “China and America” ​​have electricity problems too.  

Amid Rouhani’s baseless allegations and lies, a commission of ministers of energy, interior, mining, trade, and oil, with the government’s legal authority to fight electricity shortages, said the shortages would continue for the time being. Hossain Hosseinzadeh, a member of the parliament’s energy commission, also noted that the crisis could not be resolved in the short term. 

There is an imbalance between electricity generation and consumption in the country, which is not easily solved and, like all the problems of the country, is due to the four decades of the mullahs’ rule. To shed more light on this confusing mess, one should try to separate facts from regime lies. 

Iran’s peak power consumption is estimated at 55 GW (55,000 MW).  According to the Ministry of Energy’s electricity generation statistics, the country’s peak electricity generation capacity is over 85 GW. Thus, there should be no problem of electricity shortage in the country. 

The first lie of the clerical regime is the actual production capacity, which in practice is a maximum of about 60 gigawatts: ‌ Many thermal power plants, which supply about 80% of the country’s electricity and their production capacity form the basis of government calculation, do not have the relevant theoretical efficiency, but often run at partial production capacity due to erosion and technical defects or shutdowns. This year, hydropower plants will not reach half of their nominal production due to reduced rainfall and lack of investment. As a result, the actual peak electricity generation capacity, estimated at 60 gigawatts at best, will not exceed 50 gigawatts, considering the drop in hydropower production. 

The mullahs’ second lie is about the consumption increase due to the seasonal heat. According to the outgoing Minister of Energy, the rise in temperature in May was 3 degrees compared to the previous year’s average. The CEO of Ahwaz Power Distribution says that one degree of temperature increase will lead to an additional 300 MW of extra load at the peak point. In this way, increasing the load due to three degrees of temperature increase creates less than one gigawatt of overload. And then this year, despite the heat, ‌ 55-gigawatt power consumption has been reported, which is 3 gigawatts less than at the same time last year. 

The mullahs’ third lie is the high average household consumption. According to global statistics, Iran has an average per capita global consumption (about 3 kWh), which is lower than similar consumption in similar countries. In fact, in the growth of annual electricity consumption, the share of household consumption is the lowest compared to other sectors, i.e., the public sector, industry, etc. Thus, attributing the problem of electricity shortage to people’s household consumption is but a  demagoguery. 

The next lie is the outsized role of lack of rainfall. The amount of hydroelectric power generation is between 10 and 12 gigawatts, and the largest figure given by the regime, which is also likely to be exaggerated, is 14.5 gigawatts. So even if we take at face value the 40% drop in electricity production due to lack of rain affirmed by the government, the amount of power deducted is less than 6 gigawatts, which is one-tenth of the total output of the country. 

Thus, neither rising temperatures, lack of rainfall, nor excessive household consumption alone is the cause of the current catastrophic situation.  

So, what is the reason for the current situation of the country’s electricity, which does not have the prospect of a quick solution?  This situation is not the result of one or more natural and unnatural events, as the officials claim, but the impact of the regime’s treacherous policies in complete disregard for the country’s infrastructure. For example: 

  • There was no necessary investment and budget allocation to electricity production, which should allow an annual increase of 5% in electricity production to meet the rise in consumption. For example, in 1399 (March 2020-March 2021), a growth of 4.8 GWh of production was planned, but according to Hassan Rouhani’s government (whose accuracy is not apparent), only 39% of the figure was achieved. In 1398, less than half of the planned investment was completed, and in the first two months of 1400, only 1% of the projected goals for this year have been achieved.
  • Before the US sanctions in 2017, nearly $ 6 billion worth of power plant construction agreements were signed with Belgian, Chinese, and German companies, none of which were implemented despite the liquidity available at the time. 

  • The country’s electricity transmission and distribution network is worn out due to lack of investment, so the rate of energy loss reaches an incredible 12%. In other words, about 10 gigawatts of the country’s electricity production is wasted simply due to the freak network condition. According to estimates by the previous administration and Rouhani’s statements, a $ 2 billion yearly investment in electricity distribution and transmission network is necessary over ten years, something that was not done. The price of energy lost due to grid depreciation reaches $ 4 billion annually, which means that due to a lack of investment of $ 2 billion per year, the country is forced to bear losses of $ 4 billion annually!
  • While the regime has spent hundreds of billions of dollars have on the nuclear industry over three decades under the pretext of generating nuclear power, nuclear power accounts for about 1.1 percent of the country’s total output.
  • According to the Paris Agreement, the amount of electricity production from renewable methods, which the country is obliged to comply with, has not been met. The Fifth Plan, which is nearing its end, was supposed to generate 4,500 megawatts of renewable electricity, while less than 400 megawatts were generated. 

With minimal investment and management in the electricity industry, all the factors mentioned by the untruthful officials of the regime combined could not have led to the current power outages. 

Dr. Aladdin Touran

Aladdin Touran is a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Foreign Affairs Committee. He has represented the Iranian Resistance in several forums, writes frequently on Middle-Eastern and Iranian affairs.

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