Sweating It Out in Kuwait

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

kuwait-towers-1 Imagine waking up in the middle of the night soaked in your own sweat, unable to even catch your breathe due to an unforgiving heat wave that has temperatures topping off at 123 degrees Fahrenheit by day and 109 degrees Fahrenheit at night. No you’re not in Hell, you’re just in Kuwait. One of the richest countries in the world, Kuwait has grappled with energy shortages for years.

Ever since the unprecedented high temperatures have dug in and reduced daily activity in Kuwait to a pitiful snail’s pace, residents in many governates of the tiny oil-rich Gulf state have faced merciless power cuts lasting for several hours a day. The high temperatures and record setting daily power consumption rates have combined to form a perfect storm of deteriorating power availability.  Power consumption peaked at 10,921 megawatts in the first week of June to break Kuwait’s all-time power consumption record. Quite notably, the maximum power production capacity for Kuwait is less than 11,200 megawatts.

An emergency session, demanded by 21 out of the 50 sitting members of the Kuwaiti Parliament, is set to take place over the weekend with MP’s seeking answers from their own government. The primary question on the table is ‘Why has power production been reduced in the face of a potential heat-fuelled disaster?’ The ability to cool homes and keep food refrigerated is a matter of life or death in Kuwait. Power cuts are very disruptive and can adversely affect health.

For those governates that have faced power cuts, there has been a marked increase in heat-related illnesses such a heat stroke, dizziness and vomiting reported by local health clinics. The elderly and small children have been the most adversely affected by the power cuts, which completely renders air conditioning systems useless.

The Ministry of Electricity and Water insist that the power cuts have not been planned and are the result of “faulty transformers.” However, consumers remain skeptical given that several dozen governates have been affected by the power cuts. Meanwhile, the Ministry has appealed to the public to reduce power consumption by limiting the use of unnecessary electrical appliances during the daytime hours of peak power consumption.

This past year the Kuwaiti government inked a deal with Korean contractors to build a new power plant fully capable of fulfilling the electrical needs of the populous of Kuwait. However, it will be at least two years until it is operational and another five years for it to reach the anticipated 20,000 megawatts. The Kuwaiti parliament recently passed new legislation to privatize both the water and electricity sectors, which could see foreign-owned firms scoring lucrative contracts to keep Kuwait cool.


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