The shutdown on Saturday of the Deir Ammar and Zahrani plants, which have generated very little electricity in recent months, came due to a fuel shortage, sources said.
The inhabitants of Halba, in the north of Akkar province, demonstrated in front of the regional office of the public producer Electricité du Liban (EDL). In nearby Tripoli, angry residents blocked roads with burning cars and tires after power cuts worsened water shortages.
“There is no fuel and limited production, so the frequency variation ruins the grid,” Marc Ayoub, energy researcher at the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera. “It has happened about 16 times in the last two weeks because the production is too low compared to what is needed for the network to reach stability. “
EDL produced less than 200 megawatts of electricity.
Local media reported that authorities were scrambling to obtain fuel from their reserve stock in order to partially replenish public electricity in several affected areas.
EDL said in a statement that a fuel shipment would arrive on Saturday evening and be offloaded early next week to bring the plant’s capacity to 500 megawatts. Another shipment of fuel from an Iraqi deal will arrive later this month. In the meantime, EDL said it is contacting oil facilities in Tripoli and Zahrani to purchase a limited amount of fuel to power power plants for the next few days.
The development of the current electricity crisis in Lebanon comes about a week after two Turkish electric barges floating off the coast stopped producing electricity after a government contract expired.
EDL continues to struggle financially to obtain fuel to run its power plants. Throughout the year, it relied on central bank cash advances and other interim measures to stay functional.
Lebanon’s ongoing electricity problems have exacerbated a crippling economic and financial crisis that has plunged three-quarters of the population into poverty and devalued the Lebanese pound by nearly 90%.
The fuel crisis has crippled much of public life, forcing much of the population to depend almost entirely on expensive private generators to keep the lights on. Hospitals have also struggled, fearing for the safety of their patients.
Iranian-backed Hezbollah delivered Iranian fuel shipments to the country via Syria via illegal border crossings. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government continues to engage with its Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian counterparts to implement a plan that would provide the country with electricity from Egyptian natural gas.
Lebanon also secured a swap deal with the Iraqi government for high sulfur fuel in exchange for medical services, where Lebanon would then swap the fuel with a supply compatible with its power plants.
Lebanon’s inefficient electricity sector is also extremely expensive. In a May 2020 presentation to international donors, the government estimated that the power sector costs around $ 1.6 billion in public funds each year, although some reports indicate it can bleed up to $ 2 billion. of dollars. This represents about 3% of the country’s entire economy, and experts told Al Jazeera that it represents almost half of the country’s cash-strapped public debt.
However, any serious reform has been hampered by corruption and the vested interests of the country’s handful of political parties, experts say.
Newly appointed Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said one of his priorities was to resolve the country’s crippling oil crisis and resume negotiations for a program approved by the International Monetary Fund to turn around the country’s economy.