Energy and Water Minister Nada Boustani said over the weekend that Lebanon intended to launch new tenders in September to build new power plants and rehabilitate existing ones.
Speaking to The Daily Star, the minister emphasized that her ministry and the Cabinet, in general, were fully committed to the execution of the power plants in order to provide the country with 24-hour power in the future.
“We have launched the prequalifications and will soon launch the new tender books in September for the new power plants in Zahrani and Selaata. This is a very important step. This means we will have four new power plants that are operational on gas, those being Zahrani, Deir Ammar, Zouk and Jiyyeh,” Boustani said.
At present, Lebanon has only two power plants that are capable of running on gas with a 400 megawatt capacity each.
The two power plants were built in 1996 for this purpose.
“The country faces a growing demand for electricity, due to an increase in its national population and an influx in the number of refugees. The growing demand is met with a shortage in power supply, of around 1,500 to 1,600 MW to be exact, which the new power plan is set to tackle,” the minister said.
Lebanon’s current electricity output is close to 1,800 MW if the electricity barges are included.
Lebanese officials have said that the around 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country consume more than 400 MW, exacerbating the electricity problem.
To Boustani, it is vital for work to proceed on schedule despite any setbacks, so that Lebanon can finally reach the ultimate goal, as she puts it, of “24/7 power feed and eliminating the massive deficit which Lebanon’s power company suffers from. With the current plan implemented, we will see Electricite du Liban with zero deficit and turning into profitability going forward.”
She did not provide a time frame for when Lebanon would see a deficit-free EDL, but hinted that once the power plan was in order and done, things would progress in the country’s best interest.
EDL’s huge deficit over the past 25 years stands at $35 billion, due to the government’s subsidizing of power bills.
The government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri has endorsed an electricity plan that aims to cut EDL’s deficit by 20 percent a year and over the next five years.
EDL’s $2 billion deficit is one of the main causes of the huge budget deficit. International organizations such as the International Monetary Fund have urged the government to remove electricity subsidies.
The minister said people had been paying a price per kilowatt that was based on oil prices at $20 a barrel in 1994.
The work on the temporary and permanent power plants will be simultaneous, Boustani said. The plan took a lot of time to launch “because we wanted to cover everything and see how much the power grid can hold and how many megawatts are needed for each area,” she added.
In Selaata, there will be a permanent combined cycle gas turbine power plant with a capacity of 700-800 MW, and it will be paired with a temporary solution in Deir Ammar which provides 450 MW.
The second package includes a permanent combined cycle gas turbine power plant in Zahrani with a capacity of 600-700 MW, paired with the permanent solution in Zahrani that provides 400 MW, along with 100 MW to be provided by the Jiyyeh power plant, 50 MW to be provided by the Jub Jennin plant and 50 MW to be provided by the Bint Jbeil plant.
This means the temporary solutions will provide about 1,050 MW, compared to the 1,450 MW that will be provided by the permanent power plants.
“The second phase will start around the end of 2020, whereby we shut down the Zouk and Jiyyeh power plants and we replace them with new eco-friendly power plants that operate on natural gas,” the minister said.
She also stressed that Lebanon planned to explore for gas off the Lebanese coast as per the plan introduced by the Energy Ministry.
The Daily Star