Characterized by long, hot and clear summers, Najaf, Iraq’s holy city, seems like the ideal place to realize the potential for solar energy in Iraq. Which is why in 2016, Najaf was selected as one of three sites to pilot rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, testing their potential for application across the sunny nation.

Energy consumption in Iraq is dominated by fossil fuels, at 96%. Not only is this a missed opportunity for the subtropical nation, but it has had very real, and visible consequences for the environment. As public infrastructure struggles to cope with the growing population, dependency on diesel generators has created a smoggy reality, with the air pollution levels in Iraq linked to health consequences for the nation.

In 2016, with support from the Global Environment Fund (GEF), six families were selected to receive rooftop solar PV systems. These initial six families, were selected as part of a pilot to raise awareness and demonstrate the potential benefits of solar energy. Since then, some of these families have benefitted from the cost savings and all are excited by a new vision for clean energy and solar for their country.

“I knew that using solar energy had positive returns on the environment, and in a country like my homeland, Iraq, there is an urgent need to use it,” explains Ihsan, 49-year-old father-of-four and recipient of a rooftop solar PV system in Najaf. “But I was also surprised in many aspects, I didn’t know that by generating clean energy, I could contribute to my community,” he adds, pointing to the excess energy the panels provide being pumped back into the government grid.

For Qusai, a 45-year-old father-of-four and Ihsan’s neighbor, the benefit was also linked to the “clean” aspect of solar energy production, “The financial burden of relying on expensive diesel generators and the noise and smog produced, makes solar energy very appealing,” he explains. “It’s also very efficient!”

On average, each of the six households were able to save $2,300 over the past four years and a total of 58,000 kgs of CO2 was saved from being emitted into the atmosphere – that’s the equivalent of consuming more than 7,000 gallons of diesel.

But to make the use of solar energy more sustainable, UNDP and the GEF knew that Iraq would need trained and experienced personnel to maintain and repair the systems.

Faridha, a local Najaf resident and Head of Amal Al-Hayat Organisation for Culture and Information, was one of 25 civil society organization members – including 15 women – trained in operating and maintaining solar PV systems, to both support the piloting of these systems over the past four years, but also act as advocates for the adoption of cleaner, greener energy across Najaf.

“Before the training, we had heard about solar energy, but we did not know how we could benefit from it in Iraq, especially in the province of Najaf,” she explains. “Solar energy is an investment for the citizen. If people consume wisely, they benefit not just themselves, but their community.”

(Source: UNDP)

By John Lee.

Iraqi President Barham Salih has named former governor of Najaf, Adnan al Zurfi (pictured), as Prime Minister Designate, asking him to form a new government within 30 days.

The 54-year-old is a member of the small Nasr parliamentary group, led by former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and was formerly a member of Dawa.

According to AFP, Zurfi fled to Saudi Arabia and then on to the United States following the failed 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein, returning to Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.

He is reported to have dual US and Iraqi citizen, and his wife, five sons and two daughters still live in the US.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, BBC, AFP, AP, eKurd)

By Shelly Kittleson for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Protesters have reportedly attempted to burn down the Iranian consulates in both of Iraq’s holy cities, Najaf and Karbala, over the past month, with the consulate in Najaf torched twice in a single week.

The attacks in Najaf took place Nov. 27 and Dec. 1, two days after the Iraqi prime minister offered to resign following Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s Friday sermon in the city.

Protesters in Najaf also attacked the shrine of late Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, who was assassinated in 2003 after he returned to Iraq following two decades in Iran.

On Nov. 3, protesters attempted to burn down Karbala’s Iranian Consulate after a similar incident in Basra late last year.

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By John Lee.

The Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Fuad Hussein, accompanied by the Ministers of Transport and Electricity, a number of Governors, Advisors to the Prime Minister and a number of general managers visited the China Railway Company earlier this week.

Among the projects discussed were the building of the Karbala-Najaf railway.

The Minister of Transport stressed the importance of the project and said that Iraq is ready to complete negotiations on the technical specifications.

(Source: Iraqi Ministry of Finance)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iran grants additional visas to Iraqis to boost its economy

In light of the US sanctions and the exit of foreign companies from Iran, Tehran is seeking to boost its income and hard currency by hosting the largest possible number of Iraqi tourists it can.

Iran’s economic charge d’affaires in Najaf, Arif Abbasi, said June 22, “The number of Iranian visas issued from Najaf will increase to 5,000 visas daily.

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By John Lee.

Indian-based Asian Oilfield Services Limited has announced that it has won orders totalling $37 million in Iraq.

The orders relate to seismic acquisition at Block 12, with $12 million for a 2D survey and $25 million for a 3D survey.

Block 12, located in the Najaf and Muthanna provinces, is being developed by Russia’s Rosneft, and PetroVietnam.

According to a statement issued to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the order is to be executed within FY20 and FY21.

The company has previously carried out 3D surveys at the Shakal block and Taza block in Iraqi Kurdistan.

(Source: Asian Oilfield Services)

Iraqi officials said they have successfully carried out a plan to ensure the security of pilgrims converging on the holy city of Najaf, south of Iraq, to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Ali (PBUH).

In a statement on Monday, the central Euphrates operations command said the Iraqi security forces have managed to implement a plan to provide security for the pilgrims gathering in Najaf to pay tribute to Imam Ali (PBUH) on his martyrdom anniversary and to mark Laylat al-Qadr.

Highlighting the success of the security scheme, Iraq’s Defense Ministry said Major General Qais Khalaf al-Mohammedawi, head of the central Euphrates operations command, has been overseeing the operation in person, Alforat reported.

In another successful operation in Baghdad, the security forces prevented an explosive-laden vehicle from entering the capital.

Officials said the affiliates of Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group had plans to deploy the car bomb into Baghdad, but the security forces at a checkpoint in Abu Ghraib road foiled the plot.

Each year in the Islamic month of Ramadan, Iraq steps up security in the holy city of Najaf to ensure the security of pilgrims.

A large number of Shiites from Iran and other countries travel to Najaf to mark the martyrdom of Imam Ali (PBUH) on 21st of Ramadan (the 9th month in the lunar Hijri calendar).

The shrine of Imam Ali (PBUH), Shiites’ first imam, is located in Najaf, 160 kilometers south of Baghdad. The city is now a great center of pilgrimage from around the Shiite Islamic world.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Conservatives in Iraq’s Najaf want to legislate religiosity

Hundreds of residents in Iraq’s Najaf province rallied and called for a new law that would “strengthen the sanctity” of the city of Najaf, where the Imam Ali Shrine, Shiite seminaries and authorities — most notably top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — are based.

The heavy presence of clerics’ black and white turbans made it obvious the city’s conservatives were spearheading the April 7 demonstration. The protesters’ anger was evident by their expressions and the slogans they chanted.

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