Lebanon News

Fuel crisis worsening, Lebanon heading toward ‘blackouts’

The Electricite du Liban building is seen in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: The crisis over a lack of fuel for Lebanon’s power plants may cause “blackouts” across the country if a solution is not found soon, a source at Electricite du Liban told The Daily Star Saturday.

The same day, EDL announced in a statement that it had been forced to shut off two energy production units because of the crisis, reducing Lebanon’s energy production by about 320 megawatts and causing longer power cuts than usual.

Though the decision was announced Saturday, the two units that were shut down – one at the Zouk power plant in Zouk Mikael and the other at a power plant in the Chouf’s Jiyyeh – had been turned off either Thursday or Friday, the EDL source said.

The source said that if the fuel crisis continues, EDL will be forced to turn off the one remaining functional unit at the Zouk plant and the two remaining units in Jiyyeh at the beginning of next week.

Such a move would lead to a reduction of an additional 180 MW – meaning that roughly a quarter of Lebanon’s energy production would be gone.

“In addition to the suffering this will cause for citizens, this can cause serious technical problems in the grid, potentially leading to blackouts,” the source said.

The Lebanese government failed to secure fuel oil for the power plants before entering caretaker status in May. Now Parliament’s endorsement is required to release the nearly half a billion dollars required to buy the fuel, caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil told The Daily Star Friday.

But due to various political factors, it remains unclear when Parliament will next meet.

“We are trying to run the power plants for as long as possible to prevent [possible blackouts] from happening, but if things keep going this way, we will get to a place where that is likely,” the source said.

The source said that two Turkish power barges that together provide over 300 MW of electricity may also be forced to shut down soon.

No further developments have been announced regarding a plan by Abi Khalil to acquire fuel from Algerian company Sonatrach without the country immediately paying for it. Two of the company’s tanker ships are carrying the fuel but have been waiting off Lebanon’s coast since Oct. 26, EDL said in its statement, because the Lebanese state would be unable to pay them. Adding insult to injury, Lebanon is required to pay $30,000 to Sonatrach for each day the tankers remain in waiting, local news channel LBCI reported.

 

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