Power outages persist despite new fuel deliveries

BEIRUT: Two ships delivered fuel to the Zahrani generating plant near Sidon last week, but the power rationing that has been plaguing the country continues unabated, residential and business customers of state-run Electricite du Liban (EDL) said Thursday. EDL spokeswoman Marie Tawk said a decrease in power rationing was being implemented. The historic metropolitan area of Beirut should see a power cuts for three hours per day, while all other regions of the country should be without power for four to six hours each day, she told The Daily Star.

Wajih al-Bisri, who owns two factories in Choueifat, and Jacques Sarraf, whose Malia Holding has operations throughout Lebanon, said the power cuts had not been reduced since the fuel arrived at Zahrani. Fadi Abboud, president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association (LIA), has said previously that factories in Metn were cut off from power for up to 20 hours per day.

"Industrialists are losing hope. We can't see any improvement happening soon, and most factories running outside of Beirut suffer from long power cuts and are thinking of moving their business outside the country," added Bisri, who is also vice chairman of the LIA.

EDL's Tawk said the utility, which has losses exceeding $14 billion since 1994, was not to blame for the power cuts, and she alluded to a delay in unloading the fuel in Zahrani and mentioned the need for the Finance Ministry to give guarantees for the fuel shipments.

"There is no shortage in fuel reserves for now, but it's the authorities' responsibility to provide the letters of credit for the fuel oil, and EDL is not responsible for the rationing in electricity supply," Tawk said.

EDL and the Finance Ministry have for some time been trading blame over the delay of the fuel delivery, as well as the cause of EDL's incessant hemorrhaging of public funds.

Last week, Finance Minister Jihad Azour said, "No matter how much money we spend on the EDL, the company will underperform. As a matter of fact, it will never perform."

Sarraf warned that as EDL's equipment - some of it ancient - continues to age and deteriorate, the utility's long-planned privatization is receding further into the future.

The country does not have an energy regulator, and demand sometimes outstrips by more than 50 percent what all the nation's power plants can provide by running at full capacity.





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