From the outset of 1990, Syria was able to accomplish self-sustenance in the electricity sector. In 2000, Syria was able to generate electricity 24/7 for all the cities, villages, and towns across the country. The price of electricity and combustibles were one of the cheapest in the whole world thanks to government subsidies. In 2006, Syria began exporting electricity to Lebanon and Jordan and in 2010 Syria linked its electric grid to Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Turkey.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in the second half of 2011, the Syrian electric grid was visibly targeted as the Islamist opposition began targeting electricity towers and gas pipes following orders from Wahhabist Sheikhs Adnan al-Ar’our (residence: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) and Yusuf Mustafa al-Qardawi (residence: Doha, Qatar), residing outside the country like. Those attacks began spreading in the Idlib countryside, the Syrian Badiyah (desert), Al-Quseir and Zara regions of the Homs countryside, Baniyas and the Damascus countryside.
When the Syrian war intensified at the end of 2011, these attacks on the Syrian electric grid took a more dangerous turn. Groups from the Jabhat al-Nusra (also known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) started storming most Syrian oil and gas fields wrecking havoc where they could between 2011 and 2012. In addition to that, militant groups began targeting electricity stations in 2012 with rockets provided to them with help of foreign sponsors like Turkey and the US. Power plants like the ones in Zara (Homs), Mahardeh (Hama), and Tishreen (Damascus) were targeted.
In 2013 Jabhat al-Nusra, the FSA and ISIS attacked several power plants capturing the Al-Zirbeh station in the Idlib eastern countryside (24.7.2013), the Aleppo Thermal Power Plant in the Aleppo eastern countryside (13.11.2013), while failing to capture the Tishreen Electricity Station in Damascus several times.
Also in 2013, the FSA, Nusra and ISIS were able to capture Syria’s most important oil well (23.11.2013) – Al-Omar Field in the Deir Ezzor countryside. In addition to Al-Omar Field, the insurgents captured Sha’er, Arak, al-Mahr, and Jazal oil fields in the Homs eastern countryside.
The FSA began financially benefiting from the Syrian energy sector in 2012 by stealing oil from known oil lines and targeting the employees of the oil companies operating in Syria through ransom extortion.
With the capture of the oil fields in 2013, most of the FSA factions began locally processing the oil in methods that are detrimental to the ecosystem. The processed gasoline was sold in Syria and Iraq and later on to Turkish companies.
In 2014, ISIS seized control of all the oil and gas fields that were under the control of the FSA managing one of the biggest illegal oil trade networks between Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. The terror group would sell thousands of barrels of stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil with dirt-cheap prices to Turkish companies that would illegally export those barrels to the global markets.
It is worth mentioning that the Syrian energy sector suffered from a plethora of European and US sanctions since the end of 2011. These sanctions even affected other civilian service sectors like electricity generation and medical care, even though it was noticed that European companies like Shell continued to operate even after the sanctions were implemented.
In 2016 ISIS was able to capture most of the Syrian gas fields. With the government focusing on Aleppo and launching Operation Dawn of Victory at the end of 2016 and dangerously disregarding the oil development that was coupled with increased American sanctions on cargo ships transporting oil to Syria. The war-torn country was struck with an overwhelming energy crisis that reached its peak at the end of November when combustibles completely ran out in Syria causing outages that lasted between 20 and 23 hours a day in most regions. This crisis was not solved until the end of May of the current year. To this day, Syria suffers from an electricity crisis.
In March 2017, US Coalition fighters bombarded the Euphrates Dam (also known as the Tabqa dam) rendering the dam, which generated 630 MW a day, out of service. The US command seemed to carry out this action out of fear that the SDF may cooperate with the Syrian government to run the dam. On an official level, the US-led coalition denied that its used artillery or warplanes dangerously close to the Euphrates Dam. The US policy is targeting the service and energy industries in countries it invades, like they did in Serbia and Iraq.
On April 15, 2016, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan announced a joint deal to improve the electricity situation in Syria including maintaining and developing the Zara and Baniyas power plants. The agreement also allocated funds for operating costs up to $11.5 million. So far, The agreement has not been implemented.
The Syrian government, cellular telephone providers, and the UN have worked on encouraging Syrian citizens to use substitute energy sources since 2012, optimizing many government institutions to run on solar energy along with cell towers. Many residents now depend on UPS and renewable energy generators to carry out their daily activities and private occupations during outage periods that generally exceed 15 hours daily across Syria.
The Syrian Armed Forces are working overtime to recapture all the gas fields in eastern Homs, successfully capturing Jazal and Sha’er oil fields. Arak, al-Mahr, and a series of tiny oil fields remain under ISIS control for now. The terror group before withdrawal has destroyed all the aforementioned oil fields. The Syrian Ministry of Oil is currently working on repairing the fields with Russian help.
Iran has been playing an important role supplying oil to the Syrian government via oil tankers. The supplies of the Iranian oil are vital for the Syrian government ability to deal with the ongoing energy crisis.
It is believed that returning the Syrian energy industry to its 2011 level is one of the most complicated tasks in Syria’s rebuilding operation. There is no doubt that Russian, Iranian, Chinese, and Syrian companies will take care of the majority of the task.