Cars drive on an unlit street during a blackout in Tehran, Iran, Jan 20, 2021. (AP)

May 25, 2021

Iran’s blackouts have seriously impacted the daily lives of millions of Iranians including in the capital Tehran since May 22.

Despite blackout timetables announced by officials in Tehran, the neighboring Alborz Province and Khorasan Razavi in northeastern Iran, unannounced blackouts have been occurring across the country in the past two days.

The state-run ISNA News Agency said Mohammad Hassan Motevalizadeh, the CEO of Tavanir (Iran’s Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Management Company) blamed Iran’s blackouts on drought impacting hydropower generation, and surging electricity demand due to crypto-currency mining and the increase in temperatures.

Tabriz, NW Iran: 100 people stuck in elevators

In Tabriz, northwestern Iran, an overall 100 people were stuck in elevators in residential and business buildings during blackouts on May 23. Firefighters carried out over 60 aid missions in Tabriz during the blackouts.

Ahvaz, W Iran: No water in 113°F/45°C

Some areas in the city of Ahvaz, where temperatures had reached 113°F/45°C experienced blackouts from 11 am to around 1 pm. Due to a drop in water pressure in most areas in the southwestern city, locals are forced to use water pumps which no longer work during blackouts.

Tehran: Patients at risk in homes

A doctor at Tehran’s Sina Hospital told the state-run Rokna News Agency on May 22 that patients who were nursed at home faced serious risks during Iran’s blackouts especially if they were using electrical oxygen machines.

Power outages impact vaccination

According to MP Mohammad Ali Mohseni Bandpi, a member of the Parliament’s Health Committee, Iran’s blackouts have created problems in COVID-19 vaccinations because health centers cannot keep the vaccines in cool temperatures during the power outages.

“Hospitals are also struggling, because although they are equipped with backup generators, they do not have the capacity to work for a long time. This means the blackouts are harming people’s health,” he added.

Tehran: Chess Championship lost due to blackouts

In Tehran, the organizer of the Asian Chess Championship individual tournaments said Iran’s chess champions lost due to a sudden power failure in the most important online match of the year, adding that two players were eliminated from the games.

After the first incident, Iran’s Chess Federation made a request to be excluded from the blackouts during the tournaments. However, they experienced anther power outage yesterday.

“The Federation cannot afford to pay for backup generators. We never had power outages before anyway,” the Head Secretary of the Chess Federation told ISNA.

What’s behind Iran’s blackouts

Energy Ministry spokesperson Mostafa Rajabi Mashhadi said over 2,000 megawatts were being consumed by illegal cryptocurrency mining adding that their power would be cut off from May 22 during peak hours.

“Farming” or “mining” bitcoin is a way to earn cryptocurrency without paying money for it. Essentially, “farmers” are awarded bitcoin for verifying transactions in bitcoin.

Bitcoin farming requires a lot of energy. In fact, farming bitcoin on a large scale requires thousands of computers as well as cooling systems, which are grouped together in centers called “bitcoin farms.”

On May 21, Reuters reported that around 4.5% of all bitcoin mining took place in Iran. According to the report a new study showed that this will allow Iran to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies that can be used to buy imports and lessen the impact of sanctions.

“The electricity being used by miners in Iran would require the equivalent of around 10 million barrels of crude oil each year to generate, around 4% of total Iranian oil exports in 2020”, the study said.

Yesterday, an Iranian MP from Shahriar said the recurring blackouts were turning into a “serious security issue”. Hossein Hagh Verdi said in a public parliament session that the reasons behind Iran’s blackouts were unclear.

“Is there no one who can explain the reason behind the blackouts to the people and the lack of proper management of the country’s electricity consumption?” he said in parliament.

In February, the Energy Ministry blamed Iran’s blackouts on the shortage of fuel and now in summer, they are blaming it on droughts. However, many experts believe these reasons are inaccurate.

Hagh Verdi said drought could not have that much of an impact and that hydropower generation only provided 3,000 megawatts of power. Reports indicate that the drop in production has now reached 12,000 megawatts.

According to the state-run ISNA News Agency, Javad Nikbin, an MP from the northeastern city of Kashmar said if crypto miners were stopped, electricity could “definitely be managed.”

“We are not exaggerating if we say the issue of electricity will be like a time bomb in the coming years,” Hadi Biginejad another MP said according to the IRNA News Agency.

This is while the Chairman of the Parliament’s Digital Economy Committee, Mojtaba Tavangar blamed Iran’s blackouts on the lack of investment in Iran’s crumbling electric power system.

“The reason for the power outages is not cryptocurrency mining, but rather the cessation of investment and the dilapidation of distribution and production networks,” Tavangar told ISNA.


About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.