After years of delays, Israel transferred control over three power substations to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank over the past month.
Ramallah praised the new substations as a step towards solving the West Bank’s long-running electricity crisis.
Almost totally dependent on Israel for electricity and possessing only a feeble grid, rolling blackouts are a familiar feature of life in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
All three substations were financed by the European Investment Bank and built by the state-owned Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). They join another substation in Jenin, which was officially transferred to Palestinian control in 2017.
Jordan also provides a small amount of electricity in areas close to its new adjusted border with the West Bank. The Palestinian power grid has long lacked the infrastructure needed to efficiently bring electricity to its constituents.
The new substations do not themselves generate electricity for the Palestinians.
Substations transform electricity from high voltage to low voltage and back again, depending on which way the power needs to flow.
Higher voltage is better for transmission in the high-wires across long distances, while lower voltage is used for distribution to residents’ homes.
According to the IEC, more substations mean that it can circulate more and higher-quality electricity into the homes of West Bank Palestinians.
In a statement, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz claimed that Jewish settlements in the West Bank would also benefit from the new substations, which would ease the burden on the power grid.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said we salute the spirit of partnership and cooperation between all sides to ensure the success of this critical step towards a comprehensive solution to the electricity crisis.
Two of the stations, one close to Hebron and the other in a town outside Nablus, will be managed by the state-owned Palestinian Electricity Transmission Company (PETL), while a third near Qalandiya will be managed by the Jerusalem District Electricity Company.
When the Jenin substation was officially launched in 2017, it had been expected that the next three would be up and running shortly. Instead, progress took years to arrive.
The establishment and operation of the three substations in Judea and Samaria will dramatically improve the supply of electricity to both Jewish and Arab communities.
This is an important and meaningful step in equalizing the quality of infrastructure in Judea and Samaria to that in the rest of the Land of Israel.
The improvements in electricity may be especially felt in East Jerusalem, because Palestinians living in East Jerusalem regularly experience electrical cuts, especially during summer heatwaves and in winter.
The new station at Qalandiya — just past the security fence which winds around the capital — has a capacity of 100 megavolts, according to Israeli officials.
Poor infrastructure, however, is far from JDECo’s only concern. The IEC has cut power to JDECo several times over the years, usually for enormous accumulated debts ranging into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The new substations will not necessarily ease those cuts, which have at times caused tens of thousands of Palestinians to experience rolling blackouts.
In January, JDECo reached a deal with the IEC to pay off around $220 million of its debt with a loan from a consortium of Palestinian and Arab banks.
But with the Palestinian Authority in the grip of a major fiscal crisis and many struggling to pay their bills, JDECo could face financial difficulties as well — leading to further clashes with the IEC
A Palestinian power grid not reliant on Israel for electricity could still be years away. A proposed power plant in Jenin which would satisfy about 50% of Palestinians’ electricity needs has yet to materialize.
Once projected to begin powering the West Bank in 2020, its main sponsors now predict an operational date of 2023.
Times of Israel / ABC Flash Point ME News 2020.