ETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The occupied West Bank’s electricity grid will be connected to Jordan as part of an initiative to interconnect power usage in the Arab world, the head of the Palestinian Power and Natural Resources Authority said Wednesday.
Head of the PA body, Omar Kittanah, said that electricity grids in Jericho have already been connected to those in Jordan as part of the Eight Country Interconnection Project, which includes Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine, and is expected to be completed over the next three years.
The most recent project phase, submitted by the Palestinian Power and Natural Resources Authority and approved by Palestinian cabinet ministers Tuesday, will seek to build a high tension line feeding Jordan with enough capacity to power the entire West Bank in the coming few years. A separate line will eventually be built to send electricity from the West Bank to the Eight Country Grid via Jordan in the future, pending Palestine’s access to power sources, Kittanah said.
The PA has started to look for funding for the Jordan-Palestine connection, which is expected to cost around $100 million.
Given that member states have special funds for supporting economic and development projects, funding the project will not be difficult to obtain, Kittanah said.The connection will improve the quality of electricity in the West Bank while also reducing the price, he added.
Kittanah said Gaza’s power lines will be connected to Egypt as part of the Eight Country Grid Interconnection, with funding for the connection already secured.
Bids for the project in Gaza were allegedly offered in 2011, but “political conditions have so far prevented progress,” Kittanah told Ma’an.
Israel will not likely interfere with the grid expansion as lines have already been built between Jordan and Jericho, the PA official said.
Expansion of the grid project comes as Palestinian dependence on Israeli electricity has been an ongoing point of contention between the two parties for years.
The contention arises partially due to massive debt owed by the Palestinian Authority to the Israeli Electric Corporation, some of which Israel planned to deduct from Palestinian tax revenues withheld by Israel for over four months earlier this year, causing outrage from the Palestinian leadership.
The Israeli Electricity Company provides around 88 percent of total electricity consumption in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the effects of debts accumulated to IEC are seen beyond power cuts and growing indifference by residents to paying exorbitant bills.
“The outstanding payments owed to the Israeli Electric Company took a heavy toll on a struggling Palestinian fiscal situation,” said Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank Director for West Bank and Gaza in an April 2015 report.
“The non-payment by Palestinian distribution companies and municipalities for purchased electricity has put further constraints on the Palestinian Authority’s budget and has hindered economic stability,” Jorgensen added.
The World Bank recommended in the report that the Palestinian Authority put more effort into reducing non-payment of electricity bills, while the Israeli Electricity Company should cooperate with its Palestinian counterparts in developing payment plans.