Eighty million euros ($90 million) in funds will be made available to small and medium enterprises who wish to convert to sustainable energy by the European Investment Bank and French Agency for Development (AFD) at the BDL-subsidized interest rate of 2 percent.
The pledge, 50 million euros of which will be provided by the EIB and 30 million euros by the AFD, was made at a news conference Thursday at the Phoenicia Hotel, for the relaunch of the Lebanese Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Finance Facility.
Supported by the Central Bank, LEEREFF is a dedicated credit line for companies who wish to invest in sustainable energy. Aside from green funds and interest rate subsidies, the initiative offers free, EU-funded, technical assistance by an international team of engineers.
All private enterprises legally operating in Lebanon may apply for a loan, from bakeries and large factories to service businesses such as hair salons.
A representative of the BDL governor, head of the Financing Unit, Wael Hamdan inaugurated the news conference, saying that “since 2010, BDL has played a major role in bridging the gap between the financial sector and the energy sector in Lebanon, by shifting resources from [conventional] energy technologies to cleaner energy technologies.”
The relaunch was organized, a year after the original launch, in an effort to remind the public that after organizational and administrative issues slowed down the project, it is now ready to be officially implemented, the organizers said.
“The new significance is that we have loans on favorable terms which can help small and medium enterprises in Lebanon substantially,” LEEREFF project manager Werner Otto Peylo told The Daily Star.
He recalled a recent experience to illustrate his belief that many commercial spaces can be used not only in a more environmentally friendly but also a more profitable way.
“I mean you see many open spaces. Three weeks ago I went to see a patisserie and they had a 300 square meter rooftop which was used for placing garbage. But this could be used for photovoltaic [solar energy]. So 300 square meters is quite already substantial, so [they] could produce in it cheap energy,” Peylo said.
Current photovoltaic energy costs stand at around $5 cents per kilowatt hour in Lebanon, while nonphotovoltaic energy costs between $17 and $22 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Peylo. “So this is a big chance for small and medium enterprises to save costs and increase their profitability and their resilience in the economy,” he added.
Peylo summarized how he feels about the initiative: “Step aside skeptics ... We will win!”
Pierre Khoury, general director of the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation, which is cooperating with LEEREFF, emphasized the government’s renewable energy efforts in his speech: “The government of Lebanon has set a target to reach 12 percent of renewable energy by 2020; 30 percent by 2030.”
The LCEC, the technical arm of the Lebanese government in all issues related to energy efficiency and renewable energy, is responsible for the country’s National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, the Arab world’s first, which it claims will result in savings exceeding $225 million a year starting 2020, according to the center’s website.
The news conference concluded with a stage signing between BDL and the five partner Lebanese banks through which the loans will be dispensed: Audi, BLC, Byblos, Fransabank and SGBL.
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