BEIRUT: Hezbollah MP Anwar Jomaa Tuesday signed onto a draft law to extend Electricite du Zahle’s electricity production concession for two years, joining fellow Zahle MPs from the Lebanese Forces and Future Movement parliamentary blocs.
LF MPs George Okeis and Cesar Maalouf and Future MP Assem Araji have already signed the bill. Three Zahle MPs have not supported it – two lawmakers from the Free Patriotic Movement and one independent.
This comes after caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, an FPM member, said he would not renew EDZ’s concession when it expires at the end of the year, saying that the electricity tariffs had been too high and that he had an alternative to secure 24/7 electricity for the city. The FPM's Zahle MP Michel Daher has also previously alleged that EDZ was charging an inflated rate.
EDZ is the only legal producer of electricity in Lebanon other than state-run company Electricite Du Liban, owing to a decades-old concession it received from the Lebanese government.
While Jomaa could not immediately be reached for comment, Maalouf told The Daily Star that the Zahle MPs supporting the extension had held a meeting with EDZ’s CEO Asaad Nakad and had agreed on its terms, notably including a decrease in the price of electricity.
“With my respect to Cesar Abi Khalil, he didn’t offer us a single solution, and the people of Zahle don’t want to return to the dark,” Maalouf said, adding that the LF’s Strong Republic bloc also backed the bill. “We don’t have any [electricity] generators in Zahle anymore except one – Asaad Nakad, and his management is good, the maintenance is great, there are no power cuts, it’s just the power bill that needs to go down.”
Maalouf explained that they had chosen a two-year extension because it gave enough time to secure alternative electricity production – but he said that the idea has been met with opposition. “I think [Deputy Speaker] Elie Ferzli only wants 3-6 months. In that case we’ll just have to let a general assembly decide.”