Salam says Doha offer to build 3 power plants has been blocked


Lebanon's political class, fuel companies and private electricity providers blocked an offer by gas-rich Qatar to build three renewable energy power plants to ease the crisis-hit nation's decades-old electricity crisis, Lebanon's caretaker economy minister said Thursday.

Lebanon's electricity crisis worsened after the country's historic economic meltdown began in October 2019. Power cuts often last for much of the day, leaving many reliant on expensive private generators that work on diesel and raise pollution levels.

Although many people have installed solar power systems in their homes over the past three years, most use it only to fill in when the generator is off. Cost and space issues in urban areas have also limited solar use.

Qatar offered in 2023 to build three power plants with a capacity of 450 megawatts — or about 25% of the small nation's needs — and since then, Doha didn't receive a response from Lebanon, caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam said.

Lebanon's energy minister, Walid Fayyad, responded in a news conference held shortly afterward that Qatar only offered to build one power plant with a capacity of 100 megawatts that would be a joint venture between the private and public sectors and not a gift as "some claim."

Salam said that after Qatar got no response from Lebanon regarding their offer, Doha offered to start with a 100-megawatt plant.

Lebanon's political class that has been running the country since the end of 1975-90 civil war is largely blamed for the widespread corruption and mismanagement that led to the country's worst economic crisis in its modern history. Five years after the crisis began, Lebanon's government hasn't implemented a staff-level agreement reached with the International Monetary Fund in 2022 and has resisted any reforms in electricity, among other sectors.

People currently get an average of four hours of electricity a day from the state company, which has cost state coffers more than $40 billion over the past three decades because of its chronic budget shortfalls.

"There is a country in darkness that we want to turn its lights on," Salam told reporters in Beirut, saying that during his last trip to Qatar in April, officials in the gas-rich nation asked him about the offer they put forward in January 2023.

"The Qatari leadership is offering to help Lebanon, so we have to respond to that offer and give results," Salam said. Had the political leadership been serious in easing the electricity crisis, he said, they would have called for emergency government and parliamentary sessions to approve it.

He blamed "cartels and Mafia" that include fuel companies and 7,200 private generators that are making huge profits because of the electricity crisis.

"We don't want to breathe poison anymore. We are inhaling poison every day," Salam said.

"Political bickering is blocking everything in the country," Salam said referring to lack of reforms as well as unsuccessful attempts to elect a president since the term of President Michel Aoun's term ended in October 2022.

Lebanon hasn't built a new power plant in decades. Multiple plans for new ones have run aground on politicians' factionalism and conflicting patronage interests. The country's few aging, heavy-fuel oil plants long ago became unable to meet demand.

Comments 4
Thumb SupportBeirut 30 May 2024, 15:32

Nothing can happen at Lebanon's energy ministry unless Gebran Bassil gets a kickback or a commission.

Thumb 30 May 2024, 15:44

"He blamed "cartels and Mafia" that include fuel companies and 7,200 private generators that are making huge profits because of the electricity crisis." . And who is he referring to? The warlords people keep re-electing.

Missing rabiosa 30 May 2024, 17:00

An utter and a complete failed state.

He is right the cartels and private generator owners and Warlords that are behind them and covering for them that are stopping the country having 24/7/365 electricity like normal countries do.

Even in my hometown another resident wanted to start a private generator so he can rip off people and the current "monopolizer" raised hell and almost came to blows that he should be the only one and no one else has a right. Most people now have solar panels.

Missing emilio 30 May 2024, 19:02

Ignoring Qatar solar plants proves Fayyad/Basil/Beri live on another planet! As nations are pledging to become carbon neutral, our plan is backward, full of corruption and will bankrupt & pollute Lebanon. Focus should be renewable. Lebanon is blessed with solar, wind, hydro, and wave power. Is Fayyad aware of UAE Masdar projects for solar power at 2.4 cents/KW or Saudi solar contracts at 2 c/KW? Does he know solar is more efficient on mountains than desert as PV negatively affected by heat? Is he aware of WDRVM a Syrian firm producing large wind turbines (WT)? Has he considered off-shore WT near Tripoli islands or mountain top? Working with universities to survey every area micro-climate for all types of renewables? Hydro & micro-hydro power? benefit of distributed power and net-metering? Is he aware 20% incentive means 80% from private funds quadrupling power output? Or only 4 solar panels provide 30 yrs of free 15000 KM/year for every EV car?