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Fuel shortages shut down Lebanon’s main power plants


Deir Ammar and Jahrani power plants shut down as diesel ran out, sparking sporadic protests.

Beirut, Lebanon -Two Lebanese power plants in crisis have gone out of commission, effectively shutting down all state power in the country.

Deir Ammar and Jahrani factories, which have produced very limited power in recent months, were shut down on Saturday due to the diesel fuel crisis, sources said.

Residents of Halbar in the northern province of Accar protested at the regional office of the state-run producer Elektrite du Liban (EDL). In nearby Tripoli, disgruntled residents set fire to cars and tires and blocked roads after the water crisis escalated due to a power outage.

“There is no fuel and limited production, so the grid is being destroyed as a result of frequency changes,” Mark Ayub, an energy researcher at the Issam Faris Institute at the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera. “This has happened about 16 times in the last two weeks because the generation is far short of what is needed for grid stability.”

EDL is generating less than 200 MW of electricity.

Local media reported that authorities were scrambling to partially re-supply electricity to several damaged areas to protect fuel from their reserve stock.

The EDL said in a statement that a fuel consignment would arrive on Saturday night and the power plant’s capacity would be raised to 500 MW early next week. Another shipment from the Iraq deal will arrive later this month. Meanwhile, the EDL said it was in contact with oil facilities in Tripoli and Jahrani to purchase a limited amount of fuel to supply the power plants for the next few days.

The improvement in Lebanon’s ongoing power crisis comes about a week after two floating Turkish power barges off the coast shut down power generation after government contracts expired.

EDL continues to fight financially for energy security to run its power plants. Throughout the year, it relies on the central bank’s cash advances and other stopgap measures to stay effective.

Lebanon’s ongoing power crisis has exacerbated a severe economic and financial crisis that has plunged three-quarters of the population into poverty and devalued the Lebanese pound by nearly 90 percent.

The energy crisis has paralyzed much of public life, forcing the majority of the population to rely on almost entirely expensive private generators to light lamps. Hospitals have also fought for the safety of their patients.

Iran-backed Hezbollah has smuggled Iranian fuel through Syria through illegal border crossings. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government is in talks with its Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian counterparts to implement a plan that will supply the country with electricity through Egypt’s natural gas.

Lebanon has also confirmed a swap agreement with the Iraqi government for high-sulfur fuel in exchange for medical services, where Lebanon will exchange fuel with a supply consistent with its power plants.

Lebanon’s dysfunctional power sector is also extremely expensive. In a presentation to international donors in May 2020, the government estimated that the power sector spends about 6 1.6 billion a year on public funds, although some reports say it could bleed up to 2 2 billion. That’s about one percent of the country’s total economy, and experts have told Al Jazeera that it’s about half of the country’s population without cash.

However, any serious reforms have been hampered by corruption and vested interests within the country’s handful of political parties, according to experts.

Lebanon’s newly appointed Prime Minister Najib Mikati said one of his priorities was to resolve the country’s crippling energy crisis and resume talks on an International Monetary Fund-approved program for the country’s economic crisis.





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