Lebanon News

Energy Ministry, Siemens look to resolve electricity crisis

Caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, right, meets with a delegation from German company Siemens in Beirut, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (The Daily Star/HO)

BEIRUT: The Energy Ministry and Siemens agreed Monday to cooperate on developing ideas to improve Lebanon’s electricity sector, with the ministry seeking to clear up rumors that it previously rejected an offer from the German company to establish power plants in the country. Caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil and Siemens Middle East CEO Dietmar Siersdorfer held a joint news conference after Abi Khalil met a delegation from the company. The meeting lasted over three hours.

“The [Energy] Ministry and Siemens agreed to cooperate within the legal and administrative frameworks to develop these ideas [presented by Siemens] further,” Abi Khalil said during the conference, which was televised.

Abi Khalil said the meeting was held to “first, clarify the misunderstanding that happened as a result of rumors,” referring to the controversy that arose last month, after a recording was leaked of Amal bloc MP Yassine Jaber blasting Free Patriotic Movement-affiliated Abi Khalil for reportedly rejecting an offer from Siemens to establish power plants in Lebanon. Abi Khalil had rejected the claims in a tweet, writing, “Siemens did not participate in any bids.”

In the news conference Monday, Abi Khalil stressed that Siemens had not made any proposals, and that discussions were limited to approaches to developing the electricity sector.

“Siemens provided an approach to enhancing the Lebanese [electricity] system, from production to transportation, distribution and collection,” Abi Khalil said.

He added that in the event that Siemens takes on a project, the company would finance it.

Siersdorfer said that during their meeting, “we did a presentation on having a system for the [existing] plant to [place] it at a high-efficiency standard,” though it was not to which power plant he was referring.

Neither Abi Khalil nor Siersdorfer took questions during the news conference, and they said no further details would be provided on Siemens’ ideas for enhancing Lebanon’s long-crippled electricity sector for the time being.

The energy minister added that further meetings would be held with the company.

“We had a fruitful meeting with the Lebanese government this morning. I’d like to thank Cesar Abi Khalil, the Minister of Energy and Water for his time. One of our top priorities at Siemens is to bring the cost of electricity down for the people of Lebanon,” Siersdorfer said in a tweet on his official Twitter after the meeting.

“Lebanon needs a strong, reliable and affordable electricity supply to support social and economic development. We believe the challenges faced by the country’s energy system can be met by supporting the holistic plan of the government to modernize its energy infrastructure.”

In the wake of the controversy sparked by the leaked recording of Jaber, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser confirmed that the company had in fact offered to help address Lebanon’s electricity crisis during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Lebanon in June.

In a response on Twitter to a user who had asked whether the company had proposed to help improve Lebanon’s electricity sector, Kaeser wrote, “Yes, we did. During the visit [with] our [chancellor], I did offer to help improve the whole electricity value chain and have our team to [sic] come in and assess what’s best for the people. No response yet from Government. Our door is open! Offer still good. Call Anytime!”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 09, 2018, on page 2.

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