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Letters to the Editor

Fortnightly Magazine - October 2006

To the Editor:

I have been serving as a prosecutor with the U.S. Army for the past year in Iraq. I have been on leave from my job as a member of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for the past 15 months.

Serving here and seeing how poor the people of Iraq are after 30 years of a dictatorship is truly life changing. You would not believe the electricity challenges they face here. In a country of over 25 million people, Iraq has only about 5,000 MW of electricity at any given time.

The transmission system is also incredibly weak. I believe that Iraq’s import capability from neighboring countries Syria and Iran is fewer than 300 MW. They are working hard now with us to re-build their transmission system and generating stations that Saddam Hussein neglected over the past 25 years and three wars. In addition, he treated electricity like a political commodity to be given to Sunnis and other political patrons who supported the regime.

Their generation fleet is old and deteriorated significantly following the Persian Gulf War as Saddam Hussein diverted funds for maintenance of the power plants to other purposes. As a result, your average Iraqi citizen today is only able to get power for roughly 8 to 9 hours a day, since their system simply lacks the ability to deliver power 24/7 like we are accustomed to in the United States. As a result, many rely on home generators when the temperatures soar over 110 degrees.

Restoring essential services like Iraq’s electricity system is an essential part of mission success here in Iraq. Continued insurgent activity also presents an additional challenge to Iraqis’ efforts to rebuild its energy infrastructure. Insurgent attacks on power lines, natural-gas fields, and generating facilities continue to hamper efforts to address this problem. I cannot imagine tougher challenges in the world for power-industry professionals right now than the restoration of adequate electricity system in Iraq. It is hard to underestimate the importance of the task, given the security situation here.

It also makes me appreciate the system we have back home, both with respect to power quality and capacity. Returning to examine public policy issues like achieving a particular state’s renewable target or its fuel diversity objectives; improving the Day 2 market within the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator footprint and the ongoing efforts to establish capacity markets seems light years ahead of what I’ve seen here in Iraq.

Finally, I must report that my duties here have not allowed me to read every issue of Public Utilities Fortnightly that my staff has faithfully mailed over the past year. I just finished reading your June edition; I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed reading it cover to cover. I look forward to reading your October issue back home.


Robert Garvin, MAJ, TC, 3RD Corps Support Command, LSA Anaconda, APO AE 09391


To the Editor:

The fact that it took Carl Danner four pages to make the case that, under certain conditions, one could recover 1/4 of the dollars in energy savings