Q&A: Electricity Minister Majid Mahdi Hantoush

Iraq is racing to improve electricity service in time for summer — and reduce dependence on Iranian energy imports — with new cross-border tie lines, more generation capacity, and initiatives to rein in demand.
Iraqi Electricity Minister Majid Mahdi Hantoush at his office in Baghdad in February 2021. (LIZZIE PORTER/Iraq Oil Report)

BAGHDAD - There are many ways the Iraqi government could deliver 24 hours of electricity service per day – but none without a financial or political cost.

In a wide-ranging interview with Iraq Oil Report in Baghdad, Iraqi Electricity Minister Majid Mahdi Hantoush outlined his approach to improving power supplies.

One major step involves addressing runaway demand. Iraqis on average consume much more electricity per capita than neighboring countries, Hantoush said, and by installing smart metering and billing citizens for power usage, the government could enforce incentives to conserve.

Another fundamental problem is the lack of planning around new construction of houses, buildings, neighborhoods, and cities. Without understanding in advance where there is going to be new demand, the Electricity Ministry has been unable to build and service the infrastructure to deliver sufficient power.

Then there is the simple matter of generation capacity. Even if Iraq's transmission and distribution infrastructure were operating perfectly, the country still isn't generating enough power to meet demand — and Hantoush wants to fix that primarily by converting existing plants from simple cycle to combined cycle, and also by building new plants.

In the meantime, Iraq remains reliant on Iranian gas and electricity supplies, which at times account for up to one-third of Iraq's power. That is hardly an ideal solution, however, both because Iran sometimes throttles back its gas and power exports, and because of the geopolitical entanglements associated with U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Hantoush spoke about these issues and more. A full transcript of the interview is below.

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