Will Egypt Turn Lights On in Lebanon?
- Lights in Lebanon will stay off if Egypt wants too much for power -
With gas supply also in doubt, minister paints dark picture
Daily Star, Lebanon
BEIRUT: Energy and Water Minister Alan Tabourian said on Monday that the
widely hoped-for delivery of Egyptian electricity to Lebanon depends to
a great extent on prices. "If the prices offered by the Egyptian side
are acceptable then we will work on the delivery of this power to
Lebanon. However, if the rates are too expensive then we won't buy
anything," he told The Daily Star.
A delegation from the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources is expected
to visit Cairo on the Wednesday and Thursday to negotiate the rates of
prospective electricity shipments from Egypt.
Under a July agreement between Beirut and Cairo, Egypt is supposed to
sell Lebanon between 150 MW and 450 MW of electricity to help fill the
gap between power demand and generation capacity in this country.
In principle, the power would be carried by high voltage lines crossing
Jordan and Syria, which would also benefit from the Egyptian
electricity. Some experts warn, however, that the Syrian grid is not
equipped to transmit such amounts of power to Lebanon.
"I don't want to buy expensive electricity from Egypt because this would
increase the energy bill," Tabourian said.
He added that even under the best-case scenario, the Egyptian deliveries
would still only allow Lebanon an average of 20 hours a day of power,
although this would be significant improvement on the current situation,
which sees many parts of the country in the dark for 12 or more hours
State-run Electricite du Liban's (EDL) current output is less than 1,600
MW, while the actual need of the country is at least 2,300 MW.
Lebanon also hopes to receive Egyptian natural gas, beginning in January
2008, to fire the turbines at the Deir Ammar plant in Beddawi, near
Tripoli, but the minister said that Cairo has slashed the amount to be
delivered by half.
He also dismissed the idea of alternative energy providing a solution
"There is no substitute to [thermal generation] plants. [Windmills] will
not be sufficient to substitute for the deficit in electricity,"
He also reiterated that Lebanon needs to build more power plants.
Experts estimate that Lebanon needs to invest close to $2 billion to
build more power plants and modernize the existing ones.
Tabourian also said that the ministry was looking into a scheme which
would see ships equipped with power generators light up the country if
Egyptian electricity and gas do not materialize.
Commenting on the decrease in the price of crude on international
markets, he said it was helping to reduce the deficit at EDL, which he
warned would be approximately $1.5 billion for 2008.
Most of Lebanon's power plants - including the Beddawi and Zahrani
facilities designed primarily to use gas - are run by fuel oil and gas
For his part, Higher Privatization Council President Ziad Hayek told The
Daily Star that the chances of getting gas from Egypt are very slim. "I
don't think we will receive gas from Egypt on time. We should consider
other alternatives," he said.
He actually proposed switching to coal-fired plants. "I admit that this
is not feasible now. But we can consider this option in the long run,"
Hayek also advised overhauling the Zouk and Jiyyeh plants, adding that
modernizing these facilities will only cost $150 million.
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