Sun, 24 Oct 2021

Lebanon blacked out as power plants close without fuel

Robert Besser
13 Oct 2021, 20:36 GMT+10

BEIRUT, Lebanon: On Saturday, Lebanon's state electricity company, Electricite du Liban, said the country's two main power stations were forced to close due to the nationwide fuel shortage.

Lebanon, whose state-owned power plants are both closed, is facing an energy crisis made worse by its reliance on imported fuel, as well as its increasing dependency on private sector companies that are also struggling to secure supplies due to the collapse of the nation's currency.

Hospitals and essential services are now in crisis mode caused by erratic power supplies. Power cuts, which have been common for years, were made worst by the shortage of diesel and fuel, along with an outdated infrastructure.

According to Electricite du Liban, the shutdowns reduced the country's total power supply to below 270 megawatts, causing a major decline in the grid's stability.

Lebanon is dependent on funding from the country's struggling central bank, which stopped subsidizing dollars for imports while the government gradually increased fuel and diesel prices, causing greater hardships throughout the country.

With record unemployment and soaring prices, many families have even stopped using private generators, receiving only a few hours of state power per day.

On Saturday, distributors of gas canisters used for cooking and heating also stopped operating.

Despite energy sector reforms being demanded by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the electricity company, responsible for most of the government's debt, recorded annual losses of up to $1.5 billion, which cost the state more than $40 billion over several decades.

In response to the crisis, the Lebanese government made an agreement with Iraq to enable the state electricity company to stay open for a few days, while Iran sent fuel shipments through Syria.

The new Lebanese government is also negotiating with Jordan for electricity supplies and with Egypt for natural gas, to be delivered via Syria. But those arrangements are likely to take months to complete.

The new shutdowns will force the government to go into "crisis management for a couple of days," said Lebanon's Electricity Minister Walid Fayad to the Associated Press, adding that the country would turn to the military for emergency fuel supplies from its stocks.

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