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Generators business thrive in Iraq amid power cuts

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Sweat drips from Aqeel Hassan as he tinkers with a labyrinth of wires that connect 270 homes in Baghdad’s sprawling Sadr City. It is a thankless job, but a crucial one amid another scorching heatwave.

His workplace is a humble shack right in front of his home, which comprises a bed, pigeons in a pen to keep him company and more than 200 color-coded switches, running to a loud, humming diesel generator.

Hassan is the neighborhood’s generator handyman, whose job involves installing and repairing the wires and switches to make sure his generator keeps running smoothly.

The system supplies power to the homes on the block when the decrepit national grid breaks down, yet again. As summer temperatures sizzle above 50 degrees Celsius, residents are increasingly reliant on his supply.

“I don’t have a start time when I clock in, I’m always on, 24 hours a day,” the burly 42-year-old told AFP.

He says he just fell into the job of maintaining generators after the US invasion in 2003.

Iraq buys gas and power from neighboring Iran to supply about a third of its energy sector, dilapidated by decades of conflict, poor maintenance and rampant corruption.

But Iran decided last month to cut power supplies to its western neighbor, saying the Iraqi Electricity Ministry owes it more than $6 billion in arrears.

That has left the national electricity provider Wataniya unable to keep up with soaring demand from the country’s 40 million people.

“Our generators are working overtime these days — around 22 hours a day,” Hassan said. Customers pay him to switch on his generator when the national grid fails. Although sometimes he says he provides electricity for free to the poorest.

Sadr City is the capital’s most densely populated suburb with over 1 million low-income households tightly packed next to each other.

There are 4.5 million privately owned generators nationwide, estimates Harry Istepanian, a Washington-based independent energy consultant and senior fellow of Iraq Energy Institute.

Each household spends “on average around $100-200 per month on electricity (which) is equivalent to a $6 to $10 billion business for privately owned generators, but it neither contributes to the country’s economy nor pays taxes,” he said.

He said Iraq’s electricity woes and the dependence on this alternative network will likely endure for some time.

“There is no quick fix for the electricity shortages, especially during peak seasons. The government needs to take bold steps in liberalizing the sector,” he said.

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Aramco, Schlumberger lead a financing round for a hydrogen battery company

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EnerVenue, the first company to offer metallic hydrogen batteries, announced that it has raised $100 million in Series A funding, led by Schlumberger New Energy and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV)- Aramco Ventures’ capital programme, the company said in a statement.

EnerVenue has established a framework for a major distribution and manufacturing agreement with Schlumberger, which will contribute to the wider availability of its batteries in global markets.

The company develops robust, flexible, and secure battery energy storage solutions based on technology proven over decades of use under the most extreme flight conditions, including operating the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Enervenue was created in 2020 to bring the proven advantages of the metallic hydrogen battery into the electrical grid and other power applications, after a series of developments to significantly reduce cost and increase the availability of raw materials for the technology created by NASA in this field.

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Dubai’s DP World to invest $414.8m in London Gateway port

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Logistics operator DP World is investing £300 million ($414.8 million) to build a fourth berth at its London Gateway hub.

Construction will begin in October, the Dubai company said in a statement, as it aims to boost capacity for large vessels.

“As a central pillar of Thames Freeport, London Gateway’s new fourth berth will allow even more customers to benefit from world class ports and logistics,” said Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the chairman of DP World.

Operated by DP World, the London Gateway is a port within the wider Port of London. It was opened in 2013.

British chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Thames Freeport will “create national hubs of trade, innovation and commerce, and attract investment” for the UK.

The investment will support this goal, he added, saying it will create new trade opportunities and support local jobs.

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SoftBank makes first Saudi startup investment in $125m deal with PIF-owned Sanabil

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Customer engagement startup Unifonic has raised $125 million in its latest funding round led by SoftBank and a unit of the Public Investment Fund.

News of the deal first came out in June, but was only officially announced on Wednesday, making it the first investment of SoftBank in a Saudi startup.

The Riyadh-based startup provides messaging, voice, and WhatsApp communication services to companies who want to engage with customers.

“From SMS for online banking to WhatsApp vaccination requests, Unifonic empowers organizations to transform customer experiences,” it said in a statement.

It claims to support businesses by providing a cost-effective communication infrastructure.

The Series B funds will be used to grow Unifonic’s platform in the Middle East, and further expand to Africa and Asia. It also plans to acquire companies in these markets.

“This raise is an important milestone in our journey, it will allow us to scale our offerings and expand our reach to enable more organizations to connect with customers reliably and effectively,” its founder Ahmed Hamdan said.

PIF unit Sanabil also took part in the funding round.

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