Local firm gets $108M transformers contract

Caretaker Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil, center, takes a tour in the factory in Beirut, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. (The Daily Star/HO)

BEIRUT: The government signed Friday a $108 million contract with Lebanese company Matelec to buy and install three gas-run transformers for three power plants.

The powerful transformers will be installed in power plants in Tripoli, Ashrafieh and the southern suburbs.

The contract was signed by caretaker Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil and the general manager of Matelec Sami Saghyer at the company’s factory in Byblos.

The transformers were part of Bassil’s additional 700 MW project.

Bassil said Matelec won the contract to build and install the transformers after making the cheapest offer among all the bidding firms.

“This contract is part of an emergency plan to increase electricity production,” Bassil told reporters after the signing ceremony.

He said the company reduced its original offer by 1 percent. “We are happy that a Lebanese company won the contract and we are also happy that the signing took place at the factory of the firm.”

The transformers will help boost electricity output in these densely populates areas.

Bassil submitted three years ago a $4.5 billion plan to the Cabinet to build new power plants and rehabilitate the existing ones.

The Cabinet approved the funds to build the plants before the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati on March 22, 2013.

Bassil said earlier that Lebanon should have electricity 24 hours a day in 2015 if his plan to boost production proceeded as planned.

In April 2013, Bassil signed a $470 million contract with Greek-Cypriot firm J&P-AVAX for a new 538 megawatt power plant in Deir Ammar, near Tripoli.

At the time he told a news conference that “the new plant will allow Lebanon to have electricity over 24 hours by 2015.”

He added that the new power plant’s capacity could increase to 565 MW if the General Electric-manufactured turbines were converted to natural gas. It will initially run on heavy fuel, the minister said in a news conference.

Bassil said the construction of the new plant would be finalized within 25 months, with a first phase due in 18 months, when the power plant would produce 360 MW.

He also signed several smaller contracts in 2013 to modernize some of the aging plants in Lebanon.

Lebanon has also signed a contract with a Turkish firm to supply Lebanon with 270 MW of electricity through two barges.

But some critics in Parliament have raised questions about the feasibility of these contracts and some of them have called on the state financial watchdog to examine the agreements carefully to determine whether they are in accordance with international standards.

MP Mohammad Qabbani has urged the Court of Accounts to reconsider its decision over the relaunched tender for Deir Ammar.

It remains to be seen whether the projects launched by Bassil will eventually improve electricity output in the next three years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 04, 2014, on page 4.




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