by Mahmoud Darwesh and Naima Misurati
TRIPOLI, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Foreign workers in southern Libya left the country recently after security services failed to free four foreign workers kidnapped by an unknown armed group.
Unknown gunmen earlier in November kidnapped foreign engineers, three Turks and one German, working for the Turkish ENKA Teknik which is executing a power plant project in the southern city of Obari.
"Libya has returned to square one again, " said Abdul-Majid Hamza, chairman of the state-owned Libyan General Electricity Company.
"The problem of electricity in Libya depends on the return of foreign companies," Hamza said, adding that the company had "gone a long way to persuade the foreign companies to return. However, the kidnapping of the foreign workers in Obari power station forced the foreign companies to leave again."
Power blackouts in Libya is one of the major issues Libyans suffer. Hamza said that the issue was supposed to be solved permanently in July next year.
"Before reaching the goal, Libya is back to point zero," Hamza told Xinhua. "The Obari power plant would have added about 640 megawatts to the public network, and will be very effective in solving the electricity problem."
"The completion of the Obari power plant, which was supposed to be in July next year, would have solved the power crisis and benefit associated projects that need a stabilized power network. However, what happened at the station brought us back to square one," Hamza explained.
"The power plant would have provided 640 megawatts and would have satisfied the need of southern Libya for power. This means that power blackouts would never happen. The electricity problem in northern Libya would be addressed as well, as power allocated from Tripoli to the south would be saved," Hamza added.
"We are trying to renegotiate with them," Hamza said regarding measures authorities are taking to persuade foreign companies to return to Libya.
"Whoever is behind the kidnapping of the foreign workers aims to embarrass the government and prevent it from solving electricity problem, a major issue Libyans are suffering from."
Regarding the foreign abductees, Hamza said that no authentic information is available about their fate, their location, or the kidnappers.
"Public power network currently produces 5500 megawatts. During hours of high demand, we need 7000 megawatts, a production deficit of 1500 megawatts," Hamza explained.
"There is a project to connect a network with Algeria," he said. "There is cooperation from Algerians and they are ready to help, but there is a problem because there is no direct link with Algeria."
"There is a possibility of using the network with Tunisia because Tunisia has a direct link with Algeria. However, this would be for limited periods or capabilities an it will not meet the purpose for two reasons: we will use the networks of Tunisia's neighbors, and we will use only the surplus production of power so that it does not affect the network's total capacity and value."
"The country is in a crisis and the people must be aware of energy consumption, keep away from excessive consumption, and not operate electrical appliances that they do not use," Hamza said.
The Obari power plant is one of the largest power stations in Libya. The project is worth 600 million dinars.