KIRKUK - Iraq's oil-rich Kirkuk province has started buying electricity from a private supplier in autonomous Kurdistan, its governor said Tuesday, after a spat with Baghdad over power shortages.
"We have a signed contract to solve the electricity problem in Kirkuk during the summer through buying 200 megawatts from a supplier in Kurdistan," said Rakan Saeed al-Juburi, the governor of Kirkuk.
Jaburi said supplies had already started this month with 100 megawatts, which would double by the end of July, adding the contract was signed with Ahmed Ismaeel, one of the biggest private power suppliers in Kurdistan.
Kirkuk, which produces more electricity than it is allocated by Baghdad, in January briefly stopped supplying power to the national network.
It resumed only after officials agreed to immediately increase Kirkuk's quota by nearly 50 percent, still leaving the province woefully short of 24-hour power.
Jaburi said the final price had still not been agreed, but authorities in Kirkuk were negotiating for $0.06 per kilowatt.
The governor said supplies would be paid for with revenues from the Petrodollar agreement, through which Kirkuk receives $1 from the central government for every barrel of oil it exports, amounting to about $1.7 million dollars a month.
Massud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region, said Tuesday he hoped the deal would relieve some of his people's suffering, and reiterated Kurdistan's claim over the province.
"I understand your suffering very well, in the field of electricity and other services," he said in a statement.
Supplies would continue until Baghdad honours agreements and "returns all these areas to the Kurdistan region."
"We insist that Kurdistan takes care of the beloved Kirkuk province, and insists in helping it, especially during this hot season," Barzani added.
Kirkuk's three power stations produce about 500 megawatts of electricity, with the majority of that sent to Baghdad, Salaheddin and Dohuk provinces.
Residents in Kirkuk have been contending with only about 12 hours of state-supplied electricity a day.
With the exception of Kurdistan, Iraq's power supply remains drastically short of demand, with homes and businesses nationwide suffering daily cuts and relying on generators to fill the gap, as the war-ravaged country struggles to boost capacity.
Overall national demand totals around 15,000 megawatts, compared with supply of 7,000 megawatts -- 6,000 megawatts produced locally, and 1,000 megawatts imported.
For months, angry Iraqis have staged demonstrations demanding improved basic services, especially electricity.
Iraq's infrastructure was devastated during the 2003 US-led invasion and more than a decade of sanctions that preceded it.