BEIRUT: A new energy hotline for residents of south Lebanon was launched Friday, with the aim of providing technical repairs in under 24 hours. Residents of south Lebanon and Nabatieh can now report malfunctions and electricity cuts by calling 1597.
Calls will be handled by a team of nine trained staff, based in a center in Sidon run by Mrad Utility Services, according to a statement from the Energy Ministry. The call operators are able to dispatch a specialist team to carry out repairs within the 24-hour time frame.
Mrad Utility Services is a private company used by Electricite du Liban to provide customer liaison, meter installation and readings and bill collection in the country’s south.
At the hotline’s official opening Friday, Energy Minister Nada Boustani answered a call from a resident and connected him to the relevant team of specialists. A video of the exchange was posted on the company’s Facebook page.
Mrad Utility Services is also working to develop a mobile application to allow citizens to follow up and review how their cases are being dealt with “step by step.”
The line is now open from 7 a.m. until 11.30 p.m., with hopes that it will become a 24-hour operation, Boustani said.
As part of her ministry’s plan to reform the sector that was submitted to Cabinet in March this year, Boustani has promised to reduce electricity theft.
Common methods of theft include the use of illegal wires to siphon power from paying customers, and the manipulation of electricity meters in order to record lower consumption.
“We have done a lot of work from the beginning of the project until today, and still a lot of work awaits us,” Boustani said. “[Mrad Utility services] has installed about 22,000 new meters in the last year, in addition to handing out more than 5,000 tickets for violations.”
Boustani added that energy losses on the grid had been reduced by around 7 percent, owing to the installation of the new meters.
According to the March plan, an estimated 34 percent of Lebanon’s electricity was being lost to failures in the grid and theft. - Additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari