Ampere generators settle in Damascus; Government lessens grip on private electricity

An Ampere generator in the markets of Damascus city - May 15, 2023 (Damascus Voice)

An Ampere generator in the markets of Damascus city - May 15, 2023 (Damascus Voice)


Enab Baladi – Jana al-Issa

On June 23, the government of the Syrian regime sent a letter requesting the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment to instruct the governors to check the sale of private electricity generators (Amperes) and to refer the violators to the competent judiciary, weeks after they were licensed in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

In a clarification, the government said that what is meant by the violator is the one who sells the electric power generated from the diesel units (Amperes) to citizens without permission from the administrative unit and the governor and without approved foundations and standards.

Despite the government’s continuous disavowal of the issue of licensing the spread of the phenomenon of selling “Amperes,” the circular clearly indicates its adoption of controlling the spread of the phenomenon, which confirms its legitimacy for its existence, amidst the absence of an explicit legislative text to that effect.

“Ampere” is a well-known local name for generator electricity in Syria, which citizens rely on in light of the electricity cuts in various Syrian regions. Its price is linked to the price of diesel, as the owners of electric generators depend on it to operate the generators.

Assad relatives are beneficiaries

At the end of last May, a member of the Damascus Provincial Council, Samir Dakak, said that the markets of al-Shaalan, al-Hamra, and al-Salihiya started operating with the ampere system after obtaining the necessary licenses.

He added that it is not expected to expand the use of amperes in the various neighborhoods of Damascus, justifying this by the need for large areas such as gardens to install private generators and, at the same time recognizing the inability of the province to control the private generators that are spread in the capital.

The Ministry of Electricity’s media response to the governorate’s statement came from Zuhair Makhlouf, the director of support for the renewable energies fund in the Ministry of Electricity, who said that the ministry did not grant any approval for the inclusion of ampere generators in the capital, Damascus, and some governorates, justifying their appearance without the approval of the ministry by the need for electricity.

The phenomenon’s license came after several times in which the Ministry of Electricity denied in previous times the possibility of raising the issue for discussion, considering that it has the “exclusive right” in the issue of electricity distribution.

In the midst of severe electrical rationing, which amounts to about twenty hours per day, relying on “ampere” generators without an official license is not new in Syria, as governorates such as Aleppo, Latakia, and Tartus have relied on them for years.

The spread of the phenomenon in most provinces was in the interest of specific investors, as the ampere trade in Aleppo was linked to the names of officers of the 4th Division, led by Maher al-Assad, while the trade in private electricity generators in Latakia was linked to Hafez Munther al-Assad, one of the cousins of the regime’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

In turn, the local Sawt al-Asima (Damascus Voice) website quoted private sources (which it did not name) that behind the deployment of “ampere” generators in Damascus are officers from the 4th Division and merchants supported by it.

Researcher Nisreen al-Zarei, who is interested in the political, economic, and social dynamics of the conflict in Syria, told Enab Baladi that the Syrian regime is moving towards privatizing services in the country in many sectors, and its agreement to license ampere generators is part of this trend.

Al-Zarei pointed out that the license means a greater decline in the government’s role in favor of al-Assad, his wife, and their network of business partners, which will naturally lead to a continuous collapse of living standards, and put the citizen under greater living and economic pressure.

No solutions in sight

The electricity needs of the regime-controlled areas are about 6,000 megawatts, while the amount generated has reached 2,000 megawatts so far, according to previous statements by the Minister of Electricity.

The last ten years have exacerbated the service conditions related to electricity to a large extent in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, as the per capita share of the state’s electricity consumption has become 15% of what it was in 2010, according to a research study prepared by the two researchers, Dr. Sinan Hatahet and Dr. Karam Shaar, in September 2021.

The government did not meet the current situation with meaningful solutions, despite its repeated promises from time to time of breakthroughs in this sector, which has not happened so far.

Al-Zarei said that the state in Syria has completely collapsed, and at the same time, the regime is interested in maintaining a “repressive police structure” without any concern for the citizen’s livelihood, which has been completely abandoned in favor of shady business networks linked to the ruling family.

In its latest statements about the proliferation of “ampere” generators, the Ministry of Electricity said that their existence is “temporary” and will end as soon as the conditions are suitable for an improvement in government electrical coverage.

Economist Iyad al-Jaafari said in an opinion article published on the Lebanese Al-Modon website that the explanation for the government’s retreat from preventing the expansion of electricity amperes is that the regime did not expect any breakthrough soon, indicating future Gulf investments in the file of bridging the electrical deficit.

Investments that the regime relied on to restore the country’s destroyed infrastructure, as its theorists were promoting only weeks ago, so it handed over the capital to the “Princes of Amperes,” but it did not legalize it on the part of the government, and kept its legitimacy temporary on the part of the governorate, according to al-Jaafari.

Legal or temporary legitimacy

On October 29, 2022, al-Assad issued Law No. 41, which amended some provisions of the Electricity Law, and at that time, included the possibility of the Ministry of Electricity giving licenses to investors wishing to implement independent conventional power generation projects without the obligation to purchase electricity.

The Minister of Electricity, Ghassan al-Zamel, said at the time that the amendment of the law does not represent legislation for “ampere” generators because the law gave investors the possibility of selling medium-voltage electricity to support industrialists, while “ampere” electricity is sold on low-voltage.

While it was mentioned in the last paragraph of the amendments that the investor has the right, after obtaining the license, to sell subscribers on low voltage (LV) using private networks.

Syrian researchers told Enab Baladi in a previous talk that the law could be a gateway to “legitimize ampere generators” because the regime seeks to secure electricity in any way, whether with large generators, clean power generation, or through major plants.

Researcher al-Jaafari pointed out in his article the fact that the last paragraph of the law was wrongly read by some analysts, as it names power plants depending on renewable energies, not those produced from traditional generating projects, considering that according to the law, the regime did not legalize the “ampere generators,” making its activity already temporary.

Al-Jaafari added that the matter is linked to the beneficiaries of this sector, who are chiefly linked to the 4th Division and its economic network, headed by Maher al-Assad.


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