Power cuts in Lebanon have left much of the population grappling with life without electricity. Faced with total blackouts, households and businesses which can afford to are now rapidly shifting to Solar power for their basic electricity needs.
The “unpredictability” of the energy sector in Lebanon pushed local resident Emilio Matar to install Solar panels at his parent’s home near Beirut. He wants to ensure that they have a reliable supply of energy and are independent from the local suppliers who hold a monopoly over power generators.
Meanwhile, NGOs and UN agencies are upgrading power systems at hospitals and schools to avoid a humanitarian crisis.
In Arsal, a deprived Lebanese town close to the Syrian border, a Scottish and German NGO are installing Solar power to ensure that clean water can continue to be pumped for local Lebanese and Syrian refugee families.
Nabil Khallouf, a Syrian refugee who works with the Scottish NGO Edinburgh Direct Aid, is already concerned about keeping the Syrian families who live in tents warm during the winter in Arsal, where temperatures drop below freezing.
How did the energy crisis happen?
Even when working at maximum capacity, the state electricity company, Électricité du Liban, fails to deliver the amount of electricity that the country requires from its inefficient power plants. The peak power demand is estimated at 3,600MW and the 1,600MW shortage leads to daily blackouts in Lebanon.
The last time the small Mediterranean country had reliable power was before the civil war – a bloody sectarian conflict that kickstarted Lebanon’s private diesel generator industry.
A patchwork of community and household generators has grown into a $2 billion (€1.7 billion) market that pumps harmful carcinogens into the air – doctors have linked an uptick in severe respiratory problems with an increase in pollution from these diesel generators.
Until this month, both the state electricity supply and the diesel required for generators were heavily subsidised by the Lebanese state.
The subsidy program, as well as the better economic conditions that existed before 2019, meant that a majority of households were able to bridge the gap in the state supply – which ranged from 3 -12 hours depending on the area of the country – to some extent, by purchasing subscriptions to private generators.
These subsidies are estimated to have contributed to as much as 43 per cent of Lebanon’s rocketing public debt, while the energy sector incurs huge annual losses due to inefficient plants, low fees, and poor rates of collection.
“We have had so much money spent on the power sector, …….