Energy and Water Minister Gibran Bassil said Friday that Lebanon is incurring $6 billion in losses each year as a result of the problems plaguing the electricity sector. Bassil, who was speaking in a conference on energy organized by the Issam Fares Center of Studies in Beirut, said this loss represents about 15 percent of the country’s GDP which now stands at $40 billion.
“Solving the electricity crisis is a central issue for Lebanon and any laxity in fixing this problem will have negative economic and social consequences,” the minister argued. He added that $4 billion of the electricity losses covers the cost of fuel oil and gasoil which run the country’s aging power plants.
The electricity crisis is one of Lebanon’s worst nightmares as Electricite du Liban applies severe power rationing in most of the country. EDL’s power plants generate 1,600 MW while the actual need is more than 2,300 MW.
Bassil submitted a plan to the government to build more gas-run power plants and import electricity from neighboring countries at a cost of $4.5 billion over the next five years. According to the plan, electricity production should in theory rise to 4,000 MW if everything goes according to plan. But some critics and energy experts doubt that Bassil and the government will be able to implement the ambitious plan as a result of the deep differences between the ministers, turmoil in Syria and above all the deep shortage of funds in the state’s coffers.
Bassil said that Lebanese citizens spend $1.7 billion on private generators each year and this has surely dealt a blow to the treasury because EDL is losing essential revenues. “In addition to the $1.7 billion, the direct losses from electricity malfunctioning are $1.5 billion,” Bassil said.
The minister also criticized the occasional riots staged by citizens in some areas protesting the power cuts. He also said that in some areas EDL bill collectors are prohibited from collecting payments.