- Students struggle to study by candlelight
- New funding can help fight frequent blackouts
- In the longer term, renewable energies can provide an answer
KHARTOUM, June 30 (Reuters) – For Wa’ad, 17, frequent power cuts in the Sudanese capital have forced her to revise high school exams by candlelight several nights.
Increasingly frequent blackouts that often last all day hit families and businesses in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities already facing 380% inflation and shortages of gasoline, bread and other imports .
They lobbied a transitional government that won praise from the international community for its economic reforms and secured a deal for significant debt relief on Tuesday, even as living conditions continue to deteriorate. Read more
After inheriting an economy in crisis with extremely low foreign exchange reserves, the government has no immediate solution to the problem, an official told Reuters.
Authorities cannot import enough fuel or pay for maintenance and parts for power plants, said the government official, who requested anonymity.
Sudanese hospitals with scarce resources have not been spared in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities acknowledged that the blackouts had caused oxygen shortages and deaths.
Only about a third of the roughly 45 million people in Sudan have access to electricity, but the demand for highly subsidized electricity is increasing on average by 11% per year, faster than most African countries, according to a report by World Bank 2019.
The country faces an average deficit of 1,000 megawatts, said Osman Dawalbeit, managing director of Sudanese state-owned Electricity Holding Company, noting rising fuel costs.
The energy minister said in March that Sudan’s power plants, designed to produce 4,000 megawatts, were only operating at 45% of their capacity.
About half of Sudanese electricity comes from fuel combustion and the other half from hydropower.
This year, the government cut subsidies for higher energy consumption levels as part of economic reforms monitored by the International Monetary Fund.
But Dawalbeit said the price of electricity remains well below production costs, contributing to problems with financing fuel supplies, maintenance and new power plants.
The uncertainty surrounding the dam Ethiopia is completing on the Blue Nile has forced Sudan to cut hydropower production, contributing to the deficit, he said.
The debt relief deal announced on Tuesday means Sudan should be able to unlock multibillion dollars in new financing that could help ease the foreign exchange crisis.
Sudan signed an agreement with General Electric last year to increase electricity production to 470 megawatts. It is also seeking to increase imports from its Egyptian and Ethiopian neighbors.
In the longer term, renewable energies can provide an answer.
“The future of power generation in Sudan lies in renewables, especially solar and wind power,” Dawalbeit said, adding that a five-year plan to launch renewables had received funding to start in six months.
Sudan is engaging private sector partners from the United States, Germany, France and Turkey, Dawalbeit said. Solar energy projects have been launched in the towns of Alfasher, Aldeain and Dongola, he said. The country imported its first wind turbine earlier this month.
In the meantime, residents continue to suffer. Temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 ° F) during the warmer months have pushed many people to their limits, unable to use fans or air conditioners.
Wa’ad said of the blackouts, “I’m afraid they’ll cause me to fail my exams and not enter college, which is my life’s dream.”
Salma Mutasem, another student studying by candlelight, said: “The natural state is the power cut every other day.
Mohamed Omar, who owns a home appliance repair shop in Khartoum, says he can only open on the three days he has electricity during the day. “We are suffering huge losses and I am struggling to pay the rent and salaries of my employees,” he said.
Report by Khalid Abdelaziz and Mohamed Nureldin in Khartoum; Additional reporting and writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Janet Lawrence
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