Lebanon in darkness, repairs under way

Ouzai is one of the areas experiencing steep electricity rationing.

BEIRUT: Electricite du Liban said Tuesday it had resolved the problem that plunged much of Lebanon into darkness Monday night, but the country is still suffering from its worst power rationing in years, with blackouts lasting 20 hours a day outside the capital.

Beirut, which usually sees no more than three hours of electricity rationing per day, fell into complete darkness late Monday as much of the country suffered a blackout for many hours.

EDL said a malfunction on a turbine at the Deir Ammar power plant had caused a “shock that delinked most power production groups from the national electricity grid.”

The state-run electricity firm said it would investigate the incident, adding that a report detailing the reasons behind the failure would be issued soon.

EDL said power supply would start improving by the end of the week as maintenance works are completed but conceded that it would still be unable to provide 24-hour electricity.

“Power supply will start improving Saturday as production group No. 3 in the Zouk power plant will be put back in service,” EDL said in a statement.

Maintenance works on another turbine in the Deir Ammar power plant will be finalized July 3 if Tripoli does not see additional deterioration in security conditions, the statement added.

The statement said three production groups in the Jiyyeh power plant would also be linked to the grid soon but did not specify an exact time for the completion of works.

According the EDL statement, power supply now stands at 1,200 megawatts per day but would increase to 1,600 MW once the maintenance works are completed.

However, during the peak summer season, demand for electricity soars above 2,600 MW, meaning that the electricity deficit would exceed 1,000 MW, the statement added.

Electricity supply has been deteriorating across the country due to maintenance works conducted on major power plants, suspension of power imports from Egypt and Syria, and an ongoing strike by Electricite du Liban part-time workers.

The EDL statement pointed out that Lebanon used to import between 5 and 10 percent of its power needs from Syria and Egypt, but exports have been halted by the two countries.

In the Bekaa, The Daily Star correspondent said the region is seeing an average of four hours of electricity, but as low as two in some areas.

In south Lebanon, supply has declined to four hours in most provinces excluding Sidon, where power supply remained at just two hours as several failures persisted on the local grid.

The same situation was reported by The Daily Star’s correspondent in north Lebanon, where supply has fallen to four hours a day in Tripoli and Akkar. In the Chouf province, supply hours have also declined to four.

The maintenance works, which were long overdue, would enable a significant improvement in power supply despite infrastructure being largely outdated, said Chafik Abi Said, an energy expert and former EDL official.

EDL supply could be increased up to 18 hours if it manages to improve to the 1,600 MW level, he said.

“If the repairs are conducted in a thorough and professional manner, we could see a significant improvement both in output and fuel consumption at the plants,” he said.

He said many power plants are now running at just 40 percent of their capacity and consume fuel inefficiently. The repairs should increase the percentage to at least 70 percent, he added.

But according to Abi Said, an immediate solution to the power crisis should involve private power generators that are already operating illegally across the country.

“The government should prepare a conditions document including an environmental criteria and move to buying electricity from the private generators. This would add hundreds of MW to EDL’s power capacity almost instantly,” he said, adding that the measure would be far more effective than leasing electricity generating barges.

Boosting energy efficiency and clamping down on theft, which drain 30 percent of power, are also necessary to shore up the sector, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 20, 2012, on page 5.




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