On Wednesday, 27 January 2016, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a panel discussion on “Mechanisms to Enhance Electricity Services and Ending the Aggravating Crisis”. The panel discussion, which was facilitated by Dr. Fadel al-Mzaini, researcher at PCHR’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, aimed at discussing the latest updates relevant to the current aggravating electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip and how a proper mechanism will be found to enhance electricity services and put an end to the electricity crisis. The panel discussion, which was held in view of the aggravating electricity crisis and power outages that reach over 20 hours a day throughout the Gaza Strip, was attended by a group of experts representing the Palestinian Energy Authority, Gaza Power Plant and Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDCo), other electricity experts and technicians, representatives from CBOs and journalists.
Khalil Shaheen, Director of PCHR’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, started the first session and welcomed the participants. He addressed the electricity crisis and how civilians in the Gaza Strip bear the electricity costs three times the costs in the neighboring countries although the electricity supply in the Gaza Strip is limited to very few hours. Shaheen highlighted the importance of finding a mechanism to enhance electricity services in Gaza based on transparency from all parties administrating the electricity sector and aside from the internal political bickering.
The representatives from the Energy Authority, GEDCo and Gaza Power Plant explained in the first session titled “Reasons of the aggravation electricity crisis and ways to enhance electricity services”. Engineer Fathi al-Shaikh Khalil, Deputy Director of the Energy Authority, said that the reasons behind the aggravation electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is that electricity consumption increased to the peak because of the bad weather. He also clarified that this crisis comes in coincidence with the continuing electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip due to, inter alia, the political split. Moreover, al-Shaikh Khalil pointed out that the GEDCo has exerted all efforts needed to provide civilians in the Gaza Strip with the best electricity services, but the thematic circumstances obstruct the electricity supply in the best manner.
Engineer Mo’tasem Abu Shahla, a representative from Gaza Power Plant, said that the Plant is able to produce 140 MW instead of 60 MW that are produced nowadays. He explained that what prevents that is the insufficient amounts of fuel entered into the Gaza Strip for the full operation the Power Plant. Abu Shahla added that the Energy Authority is mainly responsible for offering the fuel, stressing that conjugating efforts in the electricity sector would help in enhancing the electricity services.
Engineer Adel al-Habash, Director of the electric power transmission at the Energy Authority, pointed out the electricity crisis is complicated and all concerned parties are responsible for the electricity file. Moreover, all persons who do not pay for the electricity services they get contribute to aggravating the crisis. Al-Habash called for raising awareness for both the civilians and officials to find a proper mechanism.
The second session tackled finding a “Proper Mechanism to enhance electricity services”. Experts, technicians and representatives from CBOs participated in this session.
Mr. Jamal al-Derdesawi, who is an expert in the electricity sector, explained that the electricity crisis has been aggravating since 2006 without finding a solution noting that multiplicity of bodies who administrate the electricity sector and political bickering are the main reasons behind the ongoing crisis.
Baker al-Turkmani, Legal Advisor at Aman Collation, pointed out that the inspection department in the electricity company is not baring its reasonability towards those who misuse electricity such as illegally having two electricity transmission lines or even those who consume electricity without having electricity meters.
Discussion was then allowed, and many participants expressed their opinions and propsed suggestions that would ease the aggravating power outage crisis. The participants also talked about the need to draft the recommendations given by all parties to improve the electricity situation and ease the crisis.
It should be mentioned that this panel discussion is part of the advocacy campaign “Lighting Gaza” funded by the European Union and carried out by PCHR in coordination with a number of NGOs to pressurize all parties supervising the electricity sector administration to improve the electricity services and put an end to the aggravating crisis.