The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is seeking to attract private finance to add 1,300MW of power generation capacity by 2015 in an effort to meet growing demand.

It is planning to add 500MW from thermal power, another 500MW from hydropower and 300MW from gas-fired plants.

The plans are in addition to a series of existing projects to add at least 1,650MW of capacity over the next 12 months.

The latest schemes could cost several billion dollars in total, with the hydropower plants alone costing up to $1.5bn.

“All these plants are open to the private sector, especially the hydropower plants,” says KRG Electricity Minister Hoshyar Siwaily. “They will be built on a build-operate-transfer basis. Hydropower plants are more difficult. In terms of investment, they require more resources.”

There are two hydropower plants in the Kurdish region: a 400MW plant at Dukan and another 243MW plant at Darbandikhan. But because of low water levels in the rivers on which the dams are built, the Little Zab and Diyala rivers respectively, they have been operating at below design capacity.

“Last year, they were able to give 136MW on average,” says Siwaily. “The situation is very bad. In January and February, we had only one hour of electricity a day.”

There are plans to renovate the two plants using a $40m loan from the World Bank. Italy’s ELC Group has been appointed as the consultant on the project and is preparing tender documents.

To compensate for its meagre generation capacity and to meet demand, which is growing at 12 per cent a year, the KRG imports power from Turkey and the Iraqi national grid. However, supplies from the rest of Iraq are unreliable.

“Maximum demand in Iraq has reached 10,000MW,” says Siwaily. “The output from generating plants is about 4,500-5,000MW. We do not get the agreed share from the grid. We agreed to get 33 per cent of the total generation in the north of Iraq. At the best of times, we get 16-18 per cent.”

Three new gas-fired power plants, costing $1bn in total, are already being developed on a build-own-operate basis in the Kurdish region. They include a 500MW plant at Irbil, a 750MW plant at Sulaimaniyah and a 400MW plant at Dohuk.

The Irbil plant is due to begin operations later this month, with the Sulaimaniyah plant following at the end of 2008. The third plant will begin supplying Dohuk in mid-2009 (MEED 28:08:07).