Lebanon’s two main power plants were forced to close after running out of fuel, the state power company said on Saturday, leaving the smaller country with no government-generated electricity.
Lebanon is grappling with a serious energy crisis, made worse by its reliance on fuel imports. Irregular power supply has put hospitals and essential services in a state of crisis. Lebanese are increasingly dependent on private operators who also struggle to secure supplies amid the unprecedented crash of the national currency.
Old infrastructure as well as lack of diesel and fuel have further worsened the power cuts which have been a fixture for years. The blackout which used to last for three to six hours may now leave the entire region with no more than two hours of state power.
On Saturday, the state power company said the Zahrani power plant in the south of the country was forced to shut down due to fuel shortages; The main plant in the north was closed on Thursday.
Electricite de Liban said the shutdown reduced the total power supply to less than 270 megawatts, meaning a major deterioration in the stability of the grid. It said it would reach out to fuel facilities in the north and south of the country to see if they could buy enough fuel to bring back electricity. It said a new consignment of fuel is expected from Iraq next week.
But the company responsible for most of the government’s debt is dependent on debt from the country’s central bank, which is grappling with depleting reserves.
The government has gradually raised fuel and diesel prices as the central bank cut dollar subsidies for imports, adding to the hardships in Lebanon, where nearly three quarters of the population live in poverty compared to last year. has fallen.
With rising prices and unemployment at record highs, many families have given up on private generators and get state electricity for a few hours a day.
On Saturday, distributors of gas canisters used for cooking and heating stopped working, saying subsidies cut amid currency volatility in the black market meant they were selling at a loss. Were.
The energy sector has been putting a heavy burden on the state exchequer for decades.
The power company has lost up to $1.5 billion annually and the state has lost more than $40 billion over the past decades. Reforms in the energy sector have been a major demand of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
To help defuse the crisis, Lebanon has received a fuel shipment from Iran via Syria. Iraq has also struck a swap deal with the government that has helped Lebanon’s state power company stay operational for days.
The new Lebanese government is also negotiating a supply of electricity from Jordan and a supply of natural gas from Egypt, through Syria. But those deals are likely to take months.
Lebanese Electricity Minister Walid Fayed told The Associated Press that the new shutdown has left his government in “crisis management for a few days”. He said the government would turn to the military to obtain emergency fuel supplies from its stock “while we await fuel cargo from the Iraqi deal and swap.”