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Kuwait cuts working hours to save power

Public sector employees, who usually finish the working day between 1pm and 2pm, will begin at 7am and finish at 12pm.

KUWAIT CITY // Parliament approved a recommendation by several members of the House yesterday to cut the working day for public sector employees during the summer in order to conserve energy, as Kuwait faces major electricity shortages. Employees, who usually finish the working day between 1pm and 2pm, will begin at 7am and finish at 12pm.

"The power crisis is a national crisis," Bader al Shuraian, the minister of electricity and water, told the National Assembly during the session. "Citizens need to understand all aspects of the problem, realise their part, and take part in the solutions." The minister laid out his strategy to cope with the record-high levels of power demand that caused electricity substations to burst into flames during a heat wave last week.

New units at the Subiya power plant would produce an additional 1,320 megawatts of power by the summer of 2011 and 680MW more by 2012, Mr al Shuraian said. "We have tried to accelerate the setting up of another plant, Al Zour ? this plant will add another 4,800MW to the power output." Last week, temperatures of up to 54 degrees Celsius pushed the country's power stations to within one per cent of their production capacity of around 11,000MW. The new power units will relieve Kuwait from the "ghost of 99 per cent", the minister said.

Kuwait's power capacity is currently around 11,200MW, just 2.5 per cent more than the country's load during periods of peak demand last week. Most countries operate with a spare capacity of around 15 per cent. Mr al Shuraian said meters will be installed in residential areas and electricity will be cut off if homeowners are negligent in paying their bills. Parliamentarians accused the ministry of electricity and water of "rampant" corruption during the session, especially in relation to its tendering of contracts. The parliament recommends an investigation committee be established to look for violations within the ministry.

Rola Dashti, an MP, criticised the minister for focusing on long term solutions to the country's energy crisis. She said: "We did not hear him say how he will solve the problem of 2010." Ali Hajiah, an associate research scientist at Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, questioned whether parliament's plan to reduce energy consumption by reducing the public sector's working hours will work. "This measure will help reduce demand on the government sector, but on the other hand it will increase the demand on the residential sector," Mr Hajiah said.

Since the residential sector accounts for up to 60 per cent of the country's total load, compared to around 7 per cent for the government sector, "it might worsen the condition," he said. Mr Hajiah said a real solution to the country's energy crisis involves setting up companies to conduct energy auditing of old and new buildings, which could reduce the country's energy consumption by 30 per cent.

jcalderwood@thenational.ae

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