BEIRUT — Energy Minister Walid Fayad said on Saturday that World Bank financing is “the remaining essential step” before long-awaited gas imports from Egypt and electricity supply from Jordan, both passing through Syria, can begin, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Here’s what we know:
• “We’ve come to the last round which includes World Bank approval to finance [power production] with gas imported from Egypt and electricity imported from Jordan, “ Fayad said, adding that these sources could provide Lebanon with an additional six hours of power a day.
• Since assuming his post as energy minister in September 2021, Fayad has touted that the plan for these supplies from Egypt and Jordan, diplomatically backed by the US, are around the corner. A number of complications, however, have meant that it has been almost seven months since Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet came to power without the much-needed plan being implemented.
• “A contract has been signed with Jordan and it is ready to be enacted when the necessary financing is guaranteed,” the minister added, noting that a contract with Egypt will be “ready to be signed in the coming days.”
• The Energy Minister said that after financing is assured, US approval which is “complete rather than in principle, in written form, guaranteeing that none of the accords will be subject to negative repercussions from the Cesar Act,” which threatens severe sanctions against all those who support the Syrian regime in certain economic sectors such as reconstruction and fuel. For now, however, “the ball is in the World Bank’s court,” Fayad said.
• Fayad said that the electricity plan, “which constitutes a requirement from the international community and the World Bank to obtain financing for fuel to increase the hours of electricity coverage,” had been approved. On Wednesday, Lebanon’s cabinet approved an optimistic plan to reform the electricity sector presented by the energy minister which includes the construction of two new power plants in Deir Ammar (North Lebanon) and Zahrani (South Lebanon).
• Responding to a query about an Iranian offer to construct two power plants in Lebanon, Fayad said that the matter would need to be tackled by the “government which makes decisions corresponding to the national interest.”
• The energy accords to import electricity produced in Jordan and gas from Egypt, passing through Syria, were approved at the end of February by the Mikati cabinet. These measures are integrated into an electricity sector reform plan for a country in which habitual, long power cuts persist amid an economic crisis. Nonetheless, financing for the imports has yet to be approved. In mid-March, US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea hailed the “continued progress” made in the accords during a meeting with Fayad.