A youth switches on a private generator power after general electricity was cut in Jayeh area, south of Beirut. Image Credit: REUTERS

Seoul: Electricite du Liban (EDL) announced a plan on Friday to increase energy production by 100 megawatts. EDL production was thus 1,600 megawatts, though the need was closer to 3,500 megawatts per day.

The increase in output was achieved by raising the production capacities of two Turkish power generating vessels that lie off the coast of the Zahrani and Zouk power plants from 280 megawatts to 380 megawatts, according to an anonymous source quoted by Al Jumhuriyyah daily.

According to the newspaper, “experimental steps were completed and the increase in production was put into implementation several days ago,” although the daily raised a troubling point, namely that the initiative was only tackled to renew the contracts with the working ships for another two years while maintenance work in the Jiyyah, Zuk and Dayr Ammar plants are completed.

Critics complain that authorities are wasting time and money maintaining old power plants, when they could just as easily build a new one in less than 18 months.

They also question why did EDL took so long to increase power supply since the two Turkish ships were fully functional.

Lebanon signed the lucrative deals with the Turkish vessels three years ago after then Minister of Energy and Water Jibran Bassil lauded their utility to provide the country with sorely needed electricity.

Bassil — who is now the Foreign Affairs minister — promised in 2010 that Lebanon would enjoy 24-hour electricity if the cabinet approved his plan to produce 5,000 megawatts yearly by 2015 if only he would be allowed to build new plants and encourage solar and wind energy.

At the time, Bassil claimed that his plan would cost about $4.8 billion, including $1.5 billion from the government, $2.3 billion from the private sector and $1 billion from donors over the next four years, although the only portion that was apparently spent was the government’s share. However, there was little or nothing to show for as Summer 2016 approached.

EDL is allocated about $2 billion each year to produce a mere 1,500 (now 1,600) megawatts of electricity when local needs are at least twice as much to cater to nearly 8 million residents.

A recent state report confirmed that the electric bill for the estimated 2 million Syrian refugees stood at over $400 million per year, which was significant.

Remarkably, and twenty-five years after the suspension of the civil war, the country is still plagued with a power shortage crisis, which compels it to manage limited supplies with a combination of rationing and privately owned power generators.

Daily power cuts could be up to 12 hours. Often times, people find themselves structuring their entire day around the electricity schedule.

Those who can afford it and who find it necessary to cook, shower, watch television and otherwise run household appliances, turn to neighbourhood power generator services to cover the remaining hours of the day, which essentially means double billing.

Mired in a slew of elite-made crises, ranging the gamut from uncollected garbage to internet scams that increase prices, the Lebanese have grown accustomed to their electricity woes.

Despite their complaints, little has been done to address the problem as the EDL cash-cow continues to fill the pockets of a select elite.

Observers say Lebanon could easily meet all of its electric needs, provided that excessive regulations were limited and every citizen was forced to pay their electric bills. (Some groups of Lebanese are not forced to pay for their electricity as a reward for their patronage of officials)

Until now, the promise to have 24-hour electricity that Bassil made five years ago has yet to be fulfilled and the $1.5 billion of the people’s money given to achieve this, remains unaccounted for.