Concern over impact of fragile energy situation in Gaza

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Without deliveries of emergency fuel in the coming weeks, essential services may halt

Despite emergency repairs to the damage incurred during the latest hostilities, the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) remained shut up to the end of October due to lack of funds to purchase fuel. Consequently, Gaza has remained entirely dependent on the supply of electricity purchased from Israel (120 MW) and Egypt (30 MW); this meets less than a third of the estimated demand. Prolonged outages consisting of cycles of five hours of supply followed by 12 hours of blackouts have remained in place. Even if fuel supplies were delivered, the GPP could only resume operations at half of its full capacity due to the damage incurred to the plant, and the longstanding electricity deficit would only be alleviated to a limited extent.

To maintain a minimum level of critical services, providers rely heavily on backup generators, although, like the GPP, operation is vulnerable to funding shortages. Emergency fuel supplies by the international community to basic life-saving health, WASH, and municipal facilities have been ongoing since December 2013 and have prevented the collapse of these services.[1] Emergency fuel requirements for the coming winter months for these three sectors are estimated at between 700,000 to one million litres per month, depending on the level of operation of the GPP. Current deliveries of emergency fuel funded by the Islamic Development Bank have come to an end. Although funding was anticipated to last until the end of 2014, increased fuel needs during the JulyAugust crisis exhausted the supply prematurely. All service providers face difficulties in maintaining their generators due to overuse and the lack of spare parts.

Prolonged outages and the limitations of back-up generators have severely undermined the delivery of basic services in all sectors. Common coping mechanisms adopted by all hospitals in Gaza include the postponement of non-urgent and elective surgeries; increased referral of patients outside of Gaza, particularly for chronic illnesses; the premature discharge of patients; and a reduction or cancelling of complementary services such as cleaning and catering. According to WHO and the Ministry of Health in Gaza, around 300 machines and medical equipment at hospitals have been damaged and have ceased to operate in recent months.

The insufficient supply of electricity and fuel to operate water pumps and wells has reduced the duration and frequency of water provision to most households, increasing the need for additional water storage and impacting on hygiene standards. Wastewater plants have shortened treatment cycles, which increases the pollution level of partially treated sewage discharged into the sea. There is a constant risk of backflow of sewage onto streets around pumping stations, particularly in low-lying areas. The shortage of fuel for vehicles has also forced municipalities to significantly reduce refuse collections and adds to additional public health hazards.[2]

Power cuts have a negative impact on the educational environment, both at school and at home. Dark classrooms impair student concentration and the sound, smoke and smell of generators, where available, is an added distraction. Food for school canteens cannot be stored in refrigerators, while water shortages from disruptions to water pumps result in dirty latrines and a lack of water for hand washing.

Fuel shortages and related rises in fuel prices also undermine agricultural livelihoods. Fishermen, farmers and poultry holders depend on fuel to run vehicles and fishing boats, essential equipment for land irrigation, and the lighting and heating of poultry holdings. Compounded by war damage and unfavourable rainfall, food insecurity is likely as a result of rising food prices, especially fresh vegetables. The lack of fuel also affects the refrigeration of produce, hatching of eggs, and machinery for livestock, poultry and fish farms.

While the emergency fuel supply, both to the GPP and to basic services, is crucial to mitigate the impact of the crisis, medium and longer-term solutions remain urgently needed. Options include the purchase of additional electricity from Israel,[3] and conversion of the GPP from fuel to gas.[4] Small-scale alternative energy solutions (mostly solar) are currently being implemented, for example in UNRWA schools, but the potential for largescale alternative energy solutions is yet to be assessed. In the long-term, Gaza should be integrated into the regional grid, linking it to Egypt and the wider region.


Over recent years, Gaza had become dependent on smuggled, subsidized Egyptian fuel. Approximately one million litres per day were brought into Gaza through the tunnels, until July 2013 when tunnel activities came to a halt. On 1 November 2013, the GPP shut down when its fuel stocks ran out, triggering one of the most serious energy crises in the Gaza Strip in recent years. The GPP resumed operations on 15 December, but it remained vulnerable to the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel and has had to temporarily reduce and/or suspend operations throughout 2014.

Latest Developments

On 11 November, around 350,000 litres of fuel funded by the Qatari government were delivered to the GPP, allowing it to resume partial operations and produce around 60MWs, or half of its full capacity. Following the resumption of GPP operations, scheduled power outages were reduced from 18 to 12 hours a day on average.


[1] Initial deliveries consisted of some 200,000 litres per month, but these increased during 2014 and totaled almost 1.5 million litres during the war

[2] For further information about the impediments to solid waste collection see OCHA, The Humanitarian Bulletin, March 2014.

[3] This would require infrastructural work by both parties and improved bill collection by the Palestinians.

[4] In the current circumstances, it would be complicated to acquire gas for the GPP, primarily due to safety concerns about transportation into Gaza. The exploitation of gas from the gas fields off the coast of Gaza will not be feasible for another five to seven years.