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Fuel shortage forces Lebanon's state power plants to shut

October 9, 2021

Most of Lebanon is set to lose access to state-generated electricity, forcing residents to buy electricity from private providers or be plunged in darkness.

A power transmission plant in the midst of a residential neighborhood in Beirut.
Power cuts have been a fixture in Lebanon for decades, but a recent fuel crisis exacerbated the situation.Image: DW/Tanios

Lebanon's two main power plants were forced to shut down after running out of fuel, the state electricity corporation said on Saturday, leaving the Mediterranean country without government-provided electricity for days.

Lebanon's electricity sector, which is highly dependent on fuel imports, has been hard-hit by a shortage of diesel and fuel.

In recent weeks, residents in the capital, Beirut, and neighboring regions have reported receiving an hour or less of state-supplied electricity per day.

Already suffering from the impact of Lebanon's economic collapse and burdened with withdrawal limits imposed by cash-strapped banks, people will now have to scramble to pay hefty private electricity bills to have any electricity at all.

Forced to shut

On Saturday, the state electricity company Electricite De Liban (EDL) said the Zahrani power plant in the country's south was forced to shut down, citing fuel shortages. The news came a few days after a northern power plant was forced to stop power production.

EDL said the shutdown reduced the total power supply to below 270 megawatts, signaling a major drop in the stability of the grid. 

It said it would reach out to fuel facilities in the country's north and south to see if they can procure enough fuel to bring back power. It added that a new shipment of fuel from Iraq was expected next week.

Rising power costs

Power cuts have been a fixture in Lebanon for decades. Successive governments has failed to provide 24/7 electricity, even before the onslaught of a financial crisis in August 2019.

Because of this, most households already had some degree of dependence on private diesel-powered generators for power.

But, as the country's crisis deepened, people received less state-produced electricity and were forced to rely more on their private providers.

With a limited supply of fuel, the prices of private electricity subscriptions shot up, making them out of reach for many after about three-quarters of the population was plunged into poverty.

A single-family household can now expect to pay about $200-$300 a month for around 12 hours of power a day.

The energy sector has been a huge drain on the state budget for decades.

The new Lebanese government is currently negotiating supplies of electricity from Jordan and natural gas from Egypt, as well as through Syria. But those deals are likely to take months.

go/rc (AP)