Electricity blackouts worsen as heatwaves continue and gas supply disrupted
The last two weeks have seen temperatures in Libya rise to over 40 degrees Celsius, leading to lengthy power cuts of up to 14 hours a day in some areas. On 29 June, Government of National Unity (GNU) Prime Minister Abdul Hameed Dabaiba and Chairman of the General Electric Company for Libya (GECOL), Wiam al-Abdali, met to discuss the crisis in response to strong criticism from Libyans on social media. Dabaiba ordered the Misratan-based Libyan Iron and Steel Company (LISCO) to cease production in order to inject 150 megawatts into the national electricity network. He also increased the resources and funding available for GECOL by dissolving the General Authority for Electricity and Renewable Energy and assigning an additional allowance of 600 LYD per month to GECOL engineers.
Rolling power blackouts are a recurring problem in Libya given the electricity infrastructure does not have enough capacity to meet the demands placed on it, especially in the summer months when air conditioning use is high. This has been accentuated by the recent heatwave. Demand for power has significantly increased as residents are using AC units to try and keep cool, while supply has dropped in many places as power stations struggle to keep up with demand and face additional technical issues due to the heat. While there are ongoing efforts to build new power stations, update and expand existing power stations and conduct repair and maintenance works on the electricity infrastructure, the sector is beset by the same issues which routinely hamper the oil sector, namely lack of funding, lack of resources and persistent insecurity. For example, the theft of copper wiring from electricity cables and the sabotage of substations are persistent issues, while a lot of physical damage was incurred on many parts of the network during the 2019-2020 conflict, especially in western Libya.
Dabaiba and his government have portrayed themselves as an ‘infrastructure government’, focused on doing deals and bringing in investment in order to repair and improve Libya’s ailing oil and gas, electricity and other infrastructure. As such, any perceived failure on his part to address the current crisis could undermine his credibility, especially in western Libya which has been hit hardest in recent days. It could also lead to protests by angry citizens in the coming days, and could increase tensions against the backdrop of the stalled political process. Ultimately, despite the various measures announced by Dabaiba and GECOL, this current acute power shortage is only likely to be alleviated once the heatwave ends and power usage drops.