BEIRUT: Two new power plants expected to boost the country’s troubled energy sector will be completed within a few months, according to Danish constructor BWSC, which is building the facilities in Jiyyeh and Zouk just outside of Beirut.
“Everything is running as planned. Both concerning time, budget and personnel,” BWSC CEO Anders Heine Jensen said, explaining that aside from smaller impacts from the Syrian crisis and a rather bureaucratic system in Lebanon, the process had been running smoothly.
The two new power plants will definitely improve Lebanon’s energy sector, according to Roudi Baroudi, energy expert and CEO of the Energy & Environment Holding in Qatar.
“It will give the energy sector a major boost for sure,” he said.
Baroudi explained that the new natural gas-fueled plants would reduce Lebanon’s need to import fuel, ultimately driving down energy costs. Currently, most of Lebanon’s electricity is generated using imported fuel oil; however, this is expected to change as the country begins drilling for natural gas offshore in the coming decade.
Despite the new plants, Baroudi warned that if the 1 million Syrian refugees remain in Lebanon, the demand for energy would rise further and the increased generation would not be sufficient to end the chronic power rationing in the country.
“With the new power plants, Lebanon will be producing 2,500 MW, which is sufficient for 4 million Lebanese people. But if 1 million Syrian refugees are here for a longer period of time, it will require 3,500 MW,” he said, adding that it would mean a continuation of dependence on foreign fuels to produce the extra 700-1,000 MW needed.
With or without the impact of Syrian refugees, stabilizing the country’s energy field is of huge importance, according to Nassib Ghobril, chief analyst at Byblos Bank.
“It has a huge impact since the operating cost here is extremely high. That is a very big burden for Lebanese economy,” Nassib Ghobril said, adding that the electricity shortages cost the country 1 percent of GDP every year.
“The image of the country is getting hurt by the energy crisis. Foreign investors are more skeptical to invest in Lebanon because of a high operating cost,” he added, saying a better electricity supply would be crucial for developing the country’s economy.
The new plants are part of a long-term plan announced by former Energy Minister Gebran Bassil to increase Lebanon’s electricity production enough to end the blackouts by 2015. The contract for the two plants, which can run on natural gas or fuel oil, was $348 million.