Fuel shortage forces closure of major Lebanese power plants | News

The Deir Ammar and Zahrani power plants shut down as a result of the lack of diesel, sparking sporadic protests.

Lebanon’s two main power plants affected by the crisis have been taken out of service, effectively shutting down all of the country’s state electricity.

The closure on Saturday of the Deir Ammar and Zahrani plants, which have generated very little electricity in recent months, came due to a shortage of diesel fuel, the sources said.

Residents of Halba, in the northern province of Akkar, protested at the regional office of state producer Electricite du Liban (EDL). In nearby Tripoli, angry residents blocked roads with burning cars and tires after power outages made water shortages worse.

“There is no fuel and the generation is limited, so the variation in frequency is ruining the grid,” Marc Ayoub, an energy researcher at the Issam Fares Institute of the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera. “It has happened about 16 times in the last two weeks because the generation is too small compared to what is needed for the network to reach stability.”

EDL has been generating less than 200 megawatts of electricity.

Local media reported that authorities were struggling to obtain fuel from their reserve reserves to partially replenish state electricity to several affected areas.

The unfolding of the current Lebanon’s electricity crisis comes about a week after two floating Turkish electric barges off the coast stopped generating power after the expiration of a government contract.

EDL continues to struggle financially to secure the fuel to run its power plants. Throughout the year, it has relied on central bank cash advances and other interim measures to keep running.

Continuing electricity problems in Lebanon have exacerbated a crippling economic and financial crisis that plunged three-quarters of the population into poverty and devalued the Lebanese pound by nearly 90 percent.

The fuel crisis has paralyzed much of public life, forcing much of the population to rely almost entirely on expensive private generators to keep the lights on. Hospitals have also struggled out of fear for the safety of their patients.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has delivered shipments of Iranian fuel to the country through Syria through illegal border crossings. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government continues to talk with its Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian counterparts to implement a plan to provide the country with electricity through Egyptian natural gas. Lebanon has also secured a swap deal with the Iraqi government for high-sulfur fuel in exchange for medical services, where Lebanon would then exchange the fuel with a supply compatible with its power plants.

Lebanon’s inefficient electricity sector is also extremely expensive. In a May 2020 submission to international donors, the government estimated that the power sector costs around $ 1.6 billion in public funds each year, although some reports say it can spill out as much as $ 2 billion. That’s roughly 3 percent of the country’s entire economy, and experts have told Al Jazeera that it offsets nearly half of the country’s liquidity-strapped public debt.

However, any serious reform has been hampered by corruption and vested interests among the country’s handful of political parties, experts say.

Lebanon’s newly appointed Prime Minister Najib Mikati said one of his priorities was to resolve the country’s devastating fuel crisis and resume negotiations for a program approved by the International Monetary Fund to recover the country’s ailing economy.

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