BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Deir Ammar power plant stopped operations early Wednesday morning due to a lack of fuel, an Electricite du Liban source told The Daily Star - the latest in a series of severe power disruptions to hit the country in recent months.
While the Finance Ministry has signed off on the release of LL60 billion ($40 million) to purchase the necessary diesel fuel for the Deir Ammar and Zahrani power plants, the ship carrying the fuel has not been able to unload due to poor weather conditions. It remains unclear when the plant will resume operations, the source said.
EDL had partially shut down the Deir Ammar plant on March 21, warning in a statement Saturday it would have to shut it down entirely, followed by the Zahrani plant on March 28.
According to the statement, a decree approving an advance of LL400 billion ($265 million) was passed last month to purchase fuel for EDL, but the state-run company had not received the Finance Ministry’s approval to access the LL60 billion necessary to pay for Deir Ammar’s and Zahrani’s diesel fuel.
The EDL source said that President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Energy Minister Nada Boustani and Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil had signed the original decree, but Khalil signed off to release only the LL60 billion Tuesday. EDL received the money Wednesday.
The Finance Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The fuel ship has been anchored off the coast of Deir Ammar since March 12. The source said that once weather conditions allowed, it would take 10-12 hours to unload the fuel, and that Deir Ammar would be able to resume full power shortly afterward. They added that they were confident the fuel would be unloaded in time to keep the Zahrani plant in operation.
Deir Ammar’s partial shutdown reduced its production to 300 megawatts from its total 470-megawatt production capacity, translating to an average of three hours less supply countrywide, Saturday’s EDL statement had said. The full shutdown translated to about four hours less electricity supply, according to the EDL source.
This is not the first time EDL has been forced to reduce power supply in recent months. A failure to pay for fuel led to power outages in January and February, translating to an average of six-hour reductions in daily electricity supply across Lebanon.
And in early November, Hariri intervened to end another escalating situation linked to nonpayment of fuel that had already caused an extra three hours of power cuts.
Improving the country’s crippled energy sector is one of the key reforms needed to unlock more than $11 billion in grants and soft loans to finance investment and infrastructure projects that were pledged to Lebanon at last April’s CEDRE conference in Paris.
At the conference, Lebanon presented a Capital Investment Program to the CEDRE donors, comprising 250 projects worth $16 billion, including in the electricity sector.