A Goodwill Gesture over Electricity Sows Discord in Lebanon

W460

It was supposed to be a goodwill gesture from an energy company in Turkey.

This summer, the Karadeniz Energy Group lent Lebanon a floating power station to generate electricity at below-market rates to help ease the strain on the country's woefully undermaintained power sector.

Instead, the barge's arrival opened a Pandora's box of partisan mudslinging in a country hobbled by political sectarianism and dysfunction.

There have been rows over where it should dock, how to allocate its 235 megawatts of power, and even what to call the barge.

It has even driven a wedge between Lebanon's two dominant parties among Shiite Muslims: Amal and Hizbullah.

Amal, which has held the parliament speaker's seat since 1992, revealed sensationally last week it had refused to allow the boat to dock in a port in the predominantly Shiite south, even though it is one of the most underserved regions of Lebanon.

Power outages in the south can stretch on for more than 12 hours a day.

Hizbullah, which normally stands pat with Amal in political matters, issued an exceptional statement that it had nothing to do with the matter of the barge at Zahrani port. A Hizbullah lawmaker went further to say his party disagreed on the issue with Amal.

Ali Hassan Khalil, Lebanon's Finance Minister and a leading Amal party member, said southerners wanted a permanent power station, not a stop-gap solution, in an implied dig at the rival Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party that runs the Energy Ministry.

But critics seized on the statement as confirmation that Amal's leaders were in bed with the operators of private generators, who have been making fortunes selling electricity during blackouts at many times the state price.

"For decades there's been nothing stopping them from building a power plant," said Mohammad Obeid, a former Amal party official, in an interview with Lebanon's Al Jadeed TV station.

"Now there's a barge that's coming for three months to provide a few more hours of electricity -- and that's the issue?"

Hassan Khalil, reached by phone, refused to comment.

Nabih Berri, Amal's chief and Lebanon's parliament speaker, who has long been the subject of critical coverage from Al Jadeed's, sued the TV channel for libel on Wednesday for its reporting.

Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, a Christian, lashed out at Amal, saying the ministry even changed the barge's name from Ayse, Turkish for Aisha, a name associated in Lebanon with Sunnis, to Esra Sultan, which does not carry any Shiite or Sunni connotations, to try to get it to dock in Zahrani.

Karadeniz said the barge was renamed "out of courtesy and respect to local customs and sensitivities."

"Ayse is a very common Turkish name, where such preferences are not as sensitive as in Lebanon," it said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Finally, on July 18, the barge docked in Jiyeh, a harbor south of Beirut but north of Zahrani, and in a religiously mixed Muslim area.

But two weeks later it was unmoored again, after Abi Khalil, the energy minister, said the infrastructure at Jiyeh could only handle 30 megawatts of the Esra Sultan's 235 capacity.

With Zahrani closed to the Esra Sultan, it could only go to Zouq Mikhael, a port in the Christian-dominated Kesrouan region in the north, where it was plugged to the grid Tuesday night, giving the region almost 24 hours of electricity a day.

Lebanon has been contending with rolling blackouts since the days of its 1975-1990 civil war. Successive governments have failed to agree on a permanent solution for the chronic electricity failures, largely because of profiteering, endemic corruption and lack of political will.

In 2013, the Energy Ministry contracted with Karadeniz to buy electricity from a pair of its barges, which are still docked in Jiyeh and Zouq Mikhael.

This summer, Abi Khalil signed a new contract with Karadeniz to keep the barges for another three years. As part of the deal, Karadeniz agreed to lend Lebanon the third barge, the Esra Sultan, to produce electricity for three months at no cost - Lebanon would just have to pay for the fuel.

The company said Lebanon's internal squabbles do not affect how long the Esra Sultan would stay in Lebanon. It arrived on July 18 and it will leave on Oct. 18, it said.

Comments 13
Thumb galaxy 10 August 2018, 11:40

Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, a Christian, lashed out at Amal, saying the ministry even changed the barge's name from Ayse, Turkish for Aisha, a name associated in Lebanon with Sunnis, to Esra Sultan, which does not carry any Shiite or Sunni connotations, to try to get it to dock in Zahrani.

Karadeniz said the barge was renamed "out of courtesy and respect to local customs and sensitivities."

So the name Aisha ( The prophet's wife ) is banned in shia iranian areas:)!

Heretics indeed.

Thumb justin 10 August 2018, 11:53

'Aisha, a name associated in Lebanon with Sunnis'

My knowledge of the Muslim faith is limited but from what I recall from my religious studies course at university when Aisheh was married to Prophet Muhammad there were no sunnis or shias!

Thumb s.o.s 10 August 2018, 14:17

the crooks have been exposed, i wonder why this message posted in the morning has been censored. This comes as no surprise to anybody.

Thumb galaxy 10 August 2018, 16:25

ask blablablabla/southern/mowaten who man this forum 24/7

Thumb s.o.s 10 August 2018, 19:18

The frustrated loser keeps on clicking on the report button.

Thumb whyaskwhy 10 August 2018, 16:25

Again the root cause is bypassed, the government is not cohesive and only serves its purposes in very small cantons in Lebanon. Since 2006 Lebanese have had the opportunity to develop an identity that was hijacked by Syria, this could have led into patriotism, instead the government chose the obvious and power coercive path of simply saying unite behind the army and that it is all we need for patriotism. They mismanaged the opportunity so Lebanon was split into the traditional segments and each is ruled by its landlord. No solutions were required statewide and Beirut being the population hub received the lions share of electric power and the rest of the nation was basically told provide and pay for your own. Zahlee took some responsibility the rest of the nation fell apart. I do not agree with Amal or Orange here but the root cause is what needs to be addressed.

Thumb justin 10 August 2018, 17:46

The Zahle' power generation model seems to have failed. Read below:

هل تعود كهرباء زحلة الى كهرباء لبنان؟

إثر زيارتهما صباح الإثنين 6 آب الحالي وزير الطاقة والمياه سيزار أبي خليل، صدر عن النائبين جورج عقيص وسيزار المعلوف البيان التالي:

« يهمّنا أن نوضح للرأي العام اللبناني عامة، والزحلي خاصة، حقيقة موقفنا المشترك من ملف الكهرباء في زحلة، المتوافق أساساً مع موقف «القوات اللبنانية» من ملف الكهرباء على مستوى الدولة، والذي يتلخّص بالآتي:

١- إن التعرفة التي تحصّلها شركة كهرباء زحلة من المواطنين في زحلة وقرى قضائها هي تعرفة باهظة تفوق قدرة المواطن والمؤسسات على تحمُّلها. وفي ظل الوضع المعيشي والاقتصادي الضاغط على المواطن فإن النائبين عقيص والمعلوف يقفان الى جانب المطالبين بإعادة النظر الفورية بتلك التعرفة ومراجعتها، وهذا ما طالبا به وزير الطاقة سيزار أبي خليل خلال زيارتهما له اليوم متمنّين ممارسة الوزارة صلاحياتها في هذا المجال، وقد وعد معاليه دراسة إمكانيات الوزارة في الرقابة على مقدار التعرفة بحسب بنود الامتياز وبالتنسيق مع وزارة الاقتصاد.

Thumb justin 10 August 2018, 17:47

٢- إن الحلّ الأمثل لملف الكهرباء هو تأمينها في كل لبنان وحلّ معضلتها انطلاقاً من العروض التي تقدّمت بها شركات عالمية لإنتاج الطاقة بأسعار تنافسية تؤمن التيار الكهربائي بشكل دائم وتوفّر على الخزينة اللبنانية العجز المتمادي الناجم عن دعم الكهرباء. طالب النائبان عقيص والمعلوف الوزارة بالشروع في دراسة تلك العروض تأميناً للمصلحة العامة وتحقيقاً لأماني الشعب اللبناني في هذا المجال.

٣- يرفض النائبان عقيص والمعلوف العودة الى التقنين بأي شكل من الأشكال، والى تجربة المولّدات الممجوجة، وقد خرجا من لقائهما بالوزير ابي خليل بانطباع أن وزارة الطاقة تدرس بجديّة تأمين الكهرباء بنفس شروط التغذية الحالية أي ٢٤/٢٤ ولكن حتماً بكلفة أقلّ من الكلفة الحالية قد تصل الى نصفها. وستستمرّ كهرباء لبنان بتأمين التغذية على هذا الشكل لحين تأمين الحلّ الشامل للكهرباء أو لحين إجراء استدراج عروض لمزوّدي الخدمات في نطاق كهرباء زحلة أسوة بما تمّ في باقي المناطق اللبنانية.

Thumb justin 10 August 2018, 17:47

٤- إطمأن النائبان عقيص والمعلوف الى مصير موظفي شركة كهرباء زحلة بعد انتهاء مدّة الامتياز، حيث أكدّ وزير الطاقة الى أن انتقال هؤلاء للعمل ضمن إطار كهرباء لبنان منصوص عليه في قانون الامتياز وفق آلية يحددها مجلس الخدمة المدنية.

٥- يدعو النائبان عقيص والمعلوف أخيراً الزحليين الى إخراج موضوع الكهرباء من التداول الإعلامي، ويعدانهم بمتابعة الموضوع بهدوء ومثابرة بما يضمن تأمين التيار بشكل دائم كما هو عليه الحال اليوم ولكن بكلفة أقلّ.

Thumb justin 10 August 2018, 17:49

https://www.lebanese-forces.com/2018/08/10/elcricity/

Missing rabiosa 10 August 2018, 16:47

The root cause is this is a dysfunctional country ruled by a dysfunctional political sectarian parties in bed with mafias of all sectors of life who line their pockets at the expense of the dysfunctional population, who bitch and moan about government this gov't that, yet they keep electing the same sectarian warlords and their lackeys. Theis a banana republic in there truest sense with a law of the jungle.

Missing rabiosa 10 August 2018, 16:47

The root cause is this is a dysfunctional country ruled by a dysfunctional political sectarian parties in bed with mafias of all sectors of life who line their pockets at the expense of the dysfunctional population, who bitch and moan about government this gov't that, yet they keep electing the same sectarian warlords and their lackeys. Theis a banana republic in there truest sense with a law of the jungle.

Thumb whyaskwhy 10 August 2018, 17:34

True its dysfunctional Rabiosa but the root cause is that the people have no sense of duty towards the nation. I am not from the south so if I was to follow the socio-politcal norms should not give two hoots if they get electricity or not. However I do care as we need to start to think in the interest of the whole nation. The people who elect are you and I as well as many others if we cannot create a sense of belonging to a nation then change will not come around. I have a dislike for all political party's and a disdain for the religious leadership of all and only because they think only in the interest of their sect/party. To paraphrase the old quote we cannot look for change when we keep repeating the same old mistakes of the past.