Full of gas
A lot of talk but little detail on plan to tackle electricity
Lebanon will finally be rescued from the electricity cuts it has long suffered from, or so says the government as it trumpets its latest plan for the sector. Eight years ago, Electricité du Liban (EDL) supplied, on average, only 18 hours of electricity per day, and an ambitious plan from 2010 did not accomplish much in terms of reducing the country’s shortfall in generated electricity. It did employ short-term measures, like leasing electricity barges, refurbishing existing power plants, and constructing small-scale renewables, all of which slightly boosted the electricity supply. The latest proposal looks like it will, again, emphasize short-term measures, but the government has so far avoided detailing the plan to the public.
At the end of March, Cabinet heard the electricity plan. According to minutes from a meeting that took place, Lebanon’s Minister of Energy and Water Cesar Abi Khalil presented the plan to the cabinet, which agreed to it in principle, permitting him to publicly announce the plan the following week in early April.
But Melhem Riachy, the Minister of Information, told reporters after the March cabinet meeting that ministers had made many comments on the plan, which would be kept secret, and that the plan would be implemented in a completely transparent way after it was ratified.
Executive requested an interview with the Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) but did not receive a response. A source at the ministry, who did not want to be named, wrote to Executive in an email at the beginning of April that details of the plan could not be discussed because there were several issues yet to be resolved. The source would not explain what those issues were and could not give a timeframe for the finalizing of the plan’s details.
The plan, in general, calls for measures to bridge the gap between the supply of electricity and consumption, according to a draft that a separate ministry source, who also did not want to be named, confirmed to Executive as authentic but outdated (it was dated March 24, 2017). In the short-term, the plan will call for new generation capacity by leasing new barges. Over the long-term, the focus will shift toward constructing new power plants, and a switch from fuel oil to natural gas for power generation.
Lebanon, by the end of 2016, had a total generating capacity of 1,873 megawatts (MW). The figure includes megawatts from two Turkish barges that connected to Lebanon’s electricity grid in 2013, and from new reciprocating generators installed at the Jiyeh and Zouk power plants in 2016.
Last summer, peak demand reached 3,100 MW. The government wants to increase the supply of electricity by leasing new barges, according to the draft plan, as a short-term measure to meet this summer’s electricity needs.
The plan calls for measures to bridge the gap between the supply of electricity and consumption
In early April, the ministry did publish a tender for two new electricity barges that would generate between 800 to 1000 MW, but bidding was postponed, according to a report in Al-Akhbar.
New electricity barges that the government might rent are meant as short-term measures that could turn into long-term
The new electricity barges that the government might rent are meant as short-term measures that could turn into long-term. The government wants to lease those barges to meet Lebanon’s electricity demands, while it builds new power plants that it hopes to power with natural gas or renewables.
According to the draft plan, the government wants to partner with the private sector to build new power plants through a modality known as Independent Power Producers (IPP), where companies would own the power plant and sell the generated electricity to the public or Lebanon’s utility, Electricité du Liban.
The government wants to set up solar power infrastructure that would generate 1,000 MW and is now readying to tender 120 MW of solar generated electricity after receiving 265 expressions of interest at the end of March, according to a list of applicants published on the website of the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation (a government agency tied to the MoEW). The plan also calls on the private sector to build a 1000 MW plant at Solata to be powered by natural gas. Electricity Law 462, ratified in 2002, stipulated that a regulator would be the authority to license new power plants, but the government never got around to appointing that body. Parliament, instead, passed legislation in 2014 and 2015 to get around that roadblock by allowing cabinet, on the recommendations of the MoEW and the Ministry of Finance, to decide when the private sector can build power plants.
The government is again looking to shift from burning fuel oil to generate electricity at most of Lebanon’s power plants to using natural gas (see Walid Nasr Q&A, page 26). The country’s newest power plants at Deir Ammar and Zahrani, built in the 1990s, were meant to use gas but were never supplied. Gas burns cleaner and would help Lebanon reach its climate change commitments, and gas imports would be cheaper and more predictable than fuel oil. It is also possible that Lebanon might find offshore gas fields as companies are now preparing to bid for exploration, with licensing expected in November this year. However, finding gas and extracting it is a possibility that is several years
A lot of talk but little detail on plan to tackle electricity storage
One of the two Turkish barges currently connected to Lebanon’s grid