Lebanon News

Generator owners refuse to install meters before agreement on rates

A man checks circuit breakers in Beirut, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Caretaker Economy Minister Raed Khoury suggested Friday that the state’s electricity pricing may be adjusted, if meters are implemented, after meeting a delegation from Chouf and Aley, who belongs to a committee of generator owners.

But the committee as a whole, which includes owners from different Lebanese areas in addition to those present Friday, did not receive the comments well. It demanded that a study be carried out to set the pricing before the meters are installed.

Speaking during a televised news conference after meeting the delegation, Khoury said he would hold more discussions with the owners, and that the pricing can be amended “if needed.”

“Our goal is to organize the [generator] sector. We agreed [with the owners] that in the coming weeks there will be adjustments to the pricing if needed,” Khoury said at the news conference, according to the state-run National News Agency.

Khoury added that the owners from Chouf and Aley said they will comply with the decision regarding the meters, and that they had therefore been able to express their concerns to him during the meeting.

“As long as [the generator owners] are complying with the decision, my doors are open to discussing anything that can help them,” Khoury said.

But in a statement shared with The Daily Star, the Central Committee of Private Generator Owners was quick to refuse Khoury’s suggestion that pricing could be reconsidered only after the meters are implemented.

Jad Nahle, a spokesperson for the group, said many generator owners in Chouf had already installed meters years ago. “Based on their experiences, we already know the current pricing won’t generate profit,” he said. It was unclear whether Nahle was referring to meters that measure actual power consumption, or those that merely measure hours without state electricity.

Despite the disagreement, tensions between the minister and the owners seemed in part to subside. Khoury reportedly clarified that the violation notices issued to generator owners who had not complied with the decision could be reconsidered if the owners come around.

For its part, the group thanked Khoury for withdrawing comments “that we were mafias and thieves.” According to the committee’s statement, the minister told a journalist: “Look at these young people: Do they look like mafias? On the contrary, they are honest citizens.”

The Daily Star could not reach Khoury for comment.

Earlier this year, the state issued a memo ordering generator owners to install meters, effective this past Monday. On the day of the decision’s implementation, the Economy Ministry issued 65 violation notices.

In addition to enabling the state to regulate the generator industry, the move will in theory protect consumers from exploitation by allowing them to pay only for the energy they consume rather than a flat rate for a generator subscription.

After the memo was issued, generator owners hit back at the pricing, saying that the rate stipulated by the Energy Ministry would make the sector unprofitable.

The new per-kilowatt-hour rate designated by the Energy Ministry for the meters is LL410 ($0.27).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 06, 2018, on page 3.




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