BEIRUT: The Energy and Water Minister announced Thursday that the first electricity barge is expected to reach Lebanon by the end of February and promised to supply the country with 24 hours of electricity every day in 2015 if his plan is implemented on schedule.
Speaking at a news conference at the Energy Ministry, Minister Gebran Bassil said the first leased barge from the Turkish firm Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretim would leave the port in one week, and the second would depart for Lebanon within four months, according to the terms of the contract.
In July 2012, Lebanon signed a $360 million three-year contract to lease electricity-generating barges from the Turkish firm. The two barges combined are expected to generate 270 megawatts of electricity.
However, some critics have slammed the agreement with the Turkish firm, warning that the Pakistani government filed a lawsuit against the company two years ago for failing to abide by its contracts.
The Pakistani government reportedly confiscated two power barges for a few weeks to force the company to pay compensation.
It is not clear whether these are the same barges which were leased by the Lebanese government.
Bassil said the Turkish company agreed to send the barges to Lebanon after receiving the first installment from the Finance Ministry.
The minister added that the two barges would allow Electricite du Liban to reduce power rationing in Lebanon by between two and three hours every day.
According to the contract, the Turkish company is obliged to pay a fine to the Lebanese government if it fails to deliver the two barges on time.
Bassil added that Lebanon has stopped receiving electricity supplies from Syria and Egypt through the high voltage cables due to the political crises in both countries.
“We used to receive between 200 MW and 300 MW from Syria, but all this came to halt. This development has further exacerbated the electricity crisis in Lebanon,” he said.
Bassil also disclosed that the tender to raise the outputs of the Zouk Mikael and Jiyyeh power plants by 272 MW had been completed with the Cabinet’s approval of the project last week.
But the minister warned that parts of Lebanon would not enjoy full electricity if Mansourieh residents in the northern Metn refuse to allow EDL technicians to install the high voltage towers in the region.
The residents of the town have prevented technical teams from completing their work because of concerns that these power lines can cause cancer.
Bassil stressed that he had sent to the Cabinet and Parliament a proposal to build plants producing 1,500 MW of power, a project that would be handled by the private sector under the Public-Private-Partnership program.
He assured that the electricity barges, the rehabilitation of the two power plants, the new 700 MW plant and the electricity supplies from Syria and Egypt would enable EDL to provide 24 hours of electricity to all of Lebanon in 2015.
“But the most important thing is that this plan is executed according to schedule and without any delay,” Bassil said.