BEIRUT — All thermal power plants in Lebanon are currently out of service due to depleted fuel oil needed to run them and protests against state-run Électricité du Liban’s workforce, EDL’s media office told L’Orient-Le Jour Thursday.
EDL management shut down the last remaining active thermal plant sites, the Zouk Mosbeh plant in Kesrouan and the Jiyeh plant in the Chouf region, on Sept. 9 and 13.
For the Zouk Mosbeh plant, EDL management complied with a court decision to stop production following massive emissions of black smoke last week. EDL said in a statement last week that the smoke was due to its use of low-grade fuel oil in the plant to prevent a “complete” loss of electricity.
EDL has run low on supplies of the fuel oil needed to properly run its electricity plants amid a delayed fuel delivery meant to arrive from Iraq.
Similar smoke came out of the stacks at the Jiyyeh plant earlier this week.
These smoke emissions have been the focus of at least two meetings between caretaker Energy and Water Minister Walid Fayad and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, which have not led to any concrete solutions.
For Jiyyeh, management decided to shut down the plant following heavy criticism thrown at employees by protesters, EDL told L’Orient-Le Jour on Thursday. Residents from nearby towns had entered the plant to demand better electricity coverage.
In general, Electricité du Liban and its staff are regularly held responsible for the severe power cuts linked to the country’s financial problems and an unmanageable business model, which the political class has been reluctant to reform for many years. Tariffs have been frozen since 1994 and many users no longer pay their EDL bills, which are calculated at outdated rates.
In a statement published by some Lebanese news sites Tuesday, EDL General Manager Kamal Hayek said the supplier is receiving 300 to 400 calls per day from citizens complaining about power shortages. At the same time, some areas have not been supplied at all for several days, impacting infrastructure such as water pumps.
The next deliveries of fuel under an exchange agreement with Iraq — which has in principle been renewed for a year — are expected by the end of the month after several delays since August.
Lebanon has stepped up contacts to secure all of its fuel needs and a delegation is due to visit Iran, a country sanctioned by the United States, shortly. The two components of the US initiative to import power from Jordan and gas from Egypt have yet to be implemented, more than a year after they were announced. Significant progress on these issues may depend on a decision by the Lebanese authorities to raise electricity tariffs, while some experts link any improvement to the issue of Lebanon's maritime border with Israel.