Iran’s energy minister says rising energy consumption amid a suffocating heat wave forced the country to cut power exports to neighboring Iraq which is grappling with an electricity crisis.
Iraqi Electricity Minister Qassem al-Fahdawi visited Iran last week to persuade the country to resume supplies of 1,000 megawatts but talks failed amid reports that Tehran wanted Baghdad to settle an outstanding debt of $1 billion.
Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardekanian on Tuesday did not mention the debt, saying instead that runaway electric demand in the face of scorching temperatures was diverting much of the electricity intended for exports to the national grid.
“Contracts for exports of electricity are signed with the framework and condition that if the exporting country needs its electricity during a time of the year, this flexibility will exist in the contract,” he told reporters in Tehran.
Ardekanian said Iranian officials are currently discussing setting up new lines for electric swap with neighboring Turkmenistan and Armenia, while negotiations with the Iraqis are also ongoing.
Al-Fahdawi was quoted as saying in a statement that his ministry “has put forward an alternative plan for importing electricity from Iran,” without elaboration.
Iraq has been importing electricity from Iran for many years after its power infrastructure was destroyed by decades of war and blockade following the US invasion.
The country needs more than 23,000 megawatts of additional electricity to meet domestic demand.
Iran cut off electricity supplies to Iraq two weeks ago as rolling blackouts and water shortages in the southern Khuzestan province in the face of sizzling temperatures touched off a series of protests.
Consumers across Iran have cranked up their air conditioners amid a brutal heat wave which has seen the mercury hit 50 degrees Celsius in some cities.
According to officials, power consumption record has been shattered three times so far this year, with the grid’s all-time peak of 57,097 MW set last week.
Meteorologists forecast another heat wave in the coming weeks, urging consumers to economize.
Banks and other public institutions in Tehran and some other cities have been ordered to open two hours earlier. The regional electric company has also announced rationed outages of up to two hours for all districts in Tehran and some other cities.