Lebanon is facing a severe electricity shortage. As thousands of Lebanese and foreign visitors enter Lebanon for the summer, Lebanon’s power stations have been overstrained pushing the government to ration electricity.
Lebanon has long dealt with power shortages, though ineffectively. Its power stations provide less than 60 percent of the country’s electricity needs. Much of the country currently receives less than 14 hours of electricity daily, a supply expected to drop as over a million tourists enter the country for the summer vacation months. This has left most Lebanese outside of Beirut to rely on private generators during power cuts.
Lebanese energy experts estimate that roughly one third of the Lebanese population does not pay for electricity. Several years ago, Hizbullah and Amal have reportedly ordered their supporters not to pay for electricity. As this practice persists and economic growth pushes for increased energy consumption, energy experts anticipate prolonged energy deficiencies in Lebanon.
According to Lebanon's Energy Minister Alan Tabourian, Lebanese “power stations have a capacity of 1,500 MW while the actual need is 2,3000 MW at least.”
Earlier this year, Tabourian pushed to fix the problem through Egyptian assistance. In an agreement signed in Cairo on February 21 with Egyptian Minister of Electricity Hasan Yuni, Egypt agreed to transmit electricity to Lebanon via a regional power grid connecting Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
These imports, however, have been insufficient for domestic demands. “What we are now importing from Egypt barely covered the natural growth in consumption. What is needed is more power generation plants,” Tabourian told the Lebanese press Saturday. “The government should declare emergency with regards to electricity in Lebanon,” he added.
Tabourian reportedly submitted a plan to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora several months ago to improve electricity production, but alleged that Siniora hid his plan “in his drawer and refused to discuss it in Cabinet.” He told Lebanese press that he “warned the ministers that the electricity problems will get worse if we fail to take action but no one listened.”
Remedies to alleviate the problem include the privatization of power production and distribution, switching to natural gas and building additional electricity plants. These suggestions, however, have not been adopted. While the government currently allocates over $1 billion each year to subsidize the cost of fuel oil and kerosene, Sinirora has said that the country must invest an additional $1 billion to produce new plants to meet growing demand.
Following the victory of the March 14 Coalition in the June 7 parliamentary election, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman named Saad Hariri to become the country’s next prime minister. He has since indicated a concern over electricity. “This cabinet is to serve Lebanese citizens,” Hariri said after recent talks with President Suleiman. “We should secure electricity…to improve their livelihoods,” he added.
It remains unclear what measure Hariri intends to adopt on the matter. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, however, have repeatedly advised the Lebanese government to adopt radical measures to tackle the electricity shortages.