Zahle is the only town in Lebanon in which solar panel owners can sell power back to the grid. (The Daily Star/Samer Husseini)
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Zahle is the only town in the country with a reliable source of power.Experts estimate the gap between Lebanon's energy supply and demand to be as much as 1 gigawatt in a country of about only 4 million people, leaving citizens without power from the official grid for as many as 12 hours per day.Citing a 1920s concession agreement with the Lebanese government to produce and distribute power in the area, the local private utility, Electricite de Zahle, leased diesel generators from a Britain-based firm and pumped the energy into the local grid.Since then, 24-hour power has made Zahle the only town in Lebanon where a national law allowing net metering – an arrangement whereby individual solar panel owners essentially sell power back to the grid – can take real effect.Rony Karam, a Lebanese investor working on a real estate project a few miles outside Zahle's grid, said he recently approached a local generator owner to see if he would help fill the power gap on a new village-scale micro-grid run largely on solar energy.
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