Lebanon’s two main power plants were forced to shut down after running out of fuel, leaving the small country without government-produced electricity.
- National power company says power plant in the south has been shut down due to fuel shortage
- Electricite De Liban says shutdown cuts total power supply to less than 270 megawatts
- The country’s electricity minister said Lebanon will use military fuel supplies for electricity
Lebanon is grappling with a crippling energy crisis, made worse by its dependence on imported fuel. Erratic power supplies have put hospitals and essential services in crisis mode.
The Lebanese are increasingly dependent on private operators who are also struggling to secure their supplies amid an unprecedented collapse of the national currency.
Shortages of diesel and fuel, as well as dilapidated infrastructure, have exacerbated the power cuts that have been common for years.
Power outages that previously lasted three to six hours could now leave entire areas without more than two hours of electricity per day.
On Saturday local time, the national electricity company said the Zahrani power plant in the south of the country had been forced to shut down due to a fuel shortage; the main plant in the north was closed on Thursday.
Electricite De Liban said the shutdown reduces the total power supply to less than 270 megawatts, which means a significant drop in grid stability.
He said he would contact fuel facilities in the north and south of the country to see if they can procure enough fuel to bring back electricity.
But the company, responsible for most of the government’s debt, relies on credit from the country’s central bank, which is struggling with dwindling reserves.
The government has gradually increased the prices of fuel and diesel as the central bank has reduced dollar subsidies for imports, adding to the difficulties facing the Lebanese.
Distributors of gas canisters used for cooking and heating have gone out of business, saying subsidy cuts amid black market currency fluctuations meant they were selling at a loss.
Lebanon turns to emergency military supplies
The energy sector has weighed heavily on state coffers for decades.
The power company has annual losses of up to $ 2 billion and has cost the state more than $ 54 billion in recent decades. Energy sector reforms have been a key demand of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
To help alleviate the crisis, Lebanon received fuel shipments from Iran via Syria.
Iraq also entered into a swap deal with the government that helped Lebanon’s national electricity company stay operational for days.
The new Lebanese government is also negotiating deliveries of electricity from Jordan and natural gas from Egypt, also via Syria. But these deals are likely to take months.
Lebanese Electricity Minister Walid Fayad told The Associated Press that the new shutdowns left his government in “crisis management for a few days”.
He said the government would look to the military for emergency fuel supplies from its stocks “while we wait for the fuel shipment from the Iraqi deal and exchange.”