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KUWAIT: The sun sets behind overhead power lines amid soaring temperatures and heightened energy demand. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat
KUWAIT: The sun sets behind overhead power lines amid soaring temperatures and heightened energy demand. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

Kuwait faces power crunch

Second day of cuts as demand spikes • Ministries move to save energy • Temperatures to rise

KUWAIT: The ministry of electricity and water and renewable energy resorted to programmed power cuts on Thursday for the second day running as government departments took a number of precautionary measures to save energy. The cuts on Thursday were limited to just five areas, mostly industrial, compared to over 40 residential areas on Wednesday, the ministry said on its X account. Earlier in the day, the ministry said that as many as 63 areas could be subjected to the cuts.

The ministry also announced Thursday that malfunctions at the main power transformer in Salwa caused power outages in parts of block 12 of the area, noting that technicians were working on fixing the problem as soon as possible. Kuwait Fire Force urged the public to avoid using elevators during the programmed power cuts. It urged people to use the emergency alarm button or call 112 for help if they get stuck in a lift during power cuts.

Temperatures continued to hover above 50 degrees Celsius and the meteorological department forecast extremely high temperatures over the coming several days, exceeding 50 degrees in most areas impacted by very hot air masses from the Indian monsoon.

The education ministry asked its primary teachers to go on summer holidays earlier, starting from Thursday, and asked its intermediate and secondary teachers to start the holidays from Monday to save as much electricity as possible as the schools will be closed. The ministry of awqaf and Islamic affairs asked mosques to switch off air conditioners 10 minutes after each prayer, while the ministry of health ordered employees to switch off lights after office hours.

Power consumption on Thursday hit 16,241 MW, surpassing the 16,000 mark for the second day in a row. Reports say that if consumption crosses 16,100, it becomes dangerous and that cuts should be applied. A new study published on Thursday said that power shortages are expected to persist over the next four years unless the government takes quick measures to build new power plants.

The ministry of electricity and water had said on Wednesday the scheduled cuts would occur for up to two hours a day, in the first such step for the OPEC member state as temperatures rise. It blamed the cuts on “the inability of power plants to meet increased demand” during peak hours amid “a rise in temperatures compared to the same period in previous years”.

On Thursday, the ministry published a schedule of expected cuts across several parts of the country, after urging residents to ration consumption to ease the load on power plants. Kuwait, one of the largest crude producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is considered one of the world’s hottest desert countries.

In recent years, climate change has made summer peaks hotter and longer. The extreme heat raises reliance on energy-guzzling air conditioners which are ubiquitous in Kuwait during the summer months. “What we are experiencing today is the result of climate change,” said Kuwaiti astronomer and scientist Adel Al-Saadoun, noting that temperatures are expected to climb above the 50-degree Celsius mark in the coming days.

Last month, Kuwait signed short-term contracts to buy 500 megawatts of electricity, including 300 MW from Oman and 200 MW from Qatar, during the summer months. The contracts would last from June 1 to Aug 31.

Kamel Harami, a Kuwaiti energy expert, said that the state needed to revamp its energy infrastructure. “The available energy is not sufficient, and instead of relying on oil and gas, we must go towards nuclear, solar and wind energy,” he said. “This is only the beginning of the crisis, and the programmed cuts of electricity will continue in the coming years if we do not accelerate the construction of power stations.”

Umm Mohammed, a Kuwaiti woman in her sixties, said she was left without power for two hours on Wednesday. “We weren’t severely affected,” she said, noting that the house remained cool during the brief outage. “Some turn their homes into refrigerators, even when they are not inside, and this raises the load” on power plants, she said.

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