Demand jumps for renewable energy as Lebanon plunged into darkness

Demand jumps for renewable energy as Lebanon plunged into darkness
An aerial view shows Lebanon's capital Beirut in darkness during power outage. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 10 October 2021

Demand jumps for renewable energy as Lebanon plunged into darkness

Demand jumps for renewable energy as Lebanon plunged into darkness
  • Two main power stations offline because of fuel shortage
  • People seeking alternative to costly private generators

BEIRUT: Lebanon is witnessing significant demand for the installation of solar power units, amid a severe energy crisis that saw the country plunged into a total blackout on Saturday.

Two main power stations went offline because they ran out of fuel, said the state electricity company Electricite du Liban, with people rushing to find alternative sources of energy in anticipation of such a blackout. 

People have also been looking for space on the roof of their building to install solar panels, said one electrical engineer.

They wanted the least amount of energy in order to keep food in the fridge, and their lights, internet and television on.

“In the last three months, the demand for installing solar energy or installing UPS batteries has increased to the point that this equipment disappeared from the Lebanese market and reservations for obtaining them took a month,” electrical engineer Bilal Rahm told Arab News. “Most of those who want to install solar energy are either rich or have children abroad who provide them with fresh money, and some poor people borrow money to get this solar energy. Everyone needs lighting, especially those who have children in schools and universities. One of my customers is a greengrocer who decided to turn to solar energy.

“Sometimes the residents of the building disagree about using the roof for personal benefit, so they ask us to dismantle these panels, but these disputes began to subside because everyone felt that they needed this method and residents agreed to build an iron top on the roof of the building to install solar panels on it. Merchants are taking advantage of this demand and have raised the prices of imported equipment under the pretext of the high cost of air freight.”

Merchants were importing the equipment from different countries, including China, Germany, England and the UAE, he said.

Dealers of electrical appliances, including Marwan Tabbara, described the demand for UPS devices as “frightening” with the onset of winter. People were looking for an alternative to subscribing to a private generator, where the bill was twice the minimum wage.

The Interior Ministry warned people a few days ago to verify “the durability” of solar energy equipment on the rooftops of buildings before the onset of winter and storms that may cause them to fall and “cause ominous damage” to people and property.

The country’s electricity network was completely disconnected after the Al-Zahrani and Deir Ammar power plants stopped as a result of a drop in energy production to below 200 megawatts.

A source at the Energy Ministry said that all was being done “to find a way out” of the problem, while EDL said it was trying to “conduct maneuvers to manually rebuild the public network in the absence of the National Control Center, which was completely damaged due to the Beirut Port explosion.”

The Deir Ammar power plant, located in the north of the country, was closed on Friday due to the lack of diesel.

Al-Zahrani, located in the south of the country, switched off on Saturday afternoon. 

The production capacity of Zouk and Jiyeh power plants — which currently stands at 350 megawatts — decreased to less than 250 megawatts, which led to the disconnection of the network.

Diana Qaisi, executive director of the Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative and an expert in energy affairs, said: “The disconnection of the network was expected because the Zouk and Jiyeh plants were not subject to real maintenance and there are no maintenance credits. We still have private generators in Lebanon. Are they enough to cover the needs of the Lebanese? Certainly not. They cannot do the job of power plants, and then there is the need for diesel.

“What we were warning of has happened. We said, carry out the required reforms, but all the state is doing is patching, and that is why we have been plunged into darkness. Our warnings were not taken seriously, and no one believed that darkness was coming.”

The next problem, she added, would be securing diesel for generators. Importers needed US dollars and securing this currency from the black market meant raising prices due to the high demand for dollars that were not available in the first place, she explained. 

Lebanon has been experiencing a months-long energy crisis, even as it suffers from economic and financial difficulties.

Rationing of state electricity reached 23 hours a day, with private generators also rationing power.

Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain

Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain
Updated 9 sec ago

Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain

Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain
  • An 11-year-old boy arriving from Europe was the carrier
  • The variant was discovered as Israel considers loosening restrictions on tourism
JERUSALEM: Israel has confirmed a case of a sub-variant of the Delta strain of the coronavirus previously reported in some European countries, the health ministry said.
“The variant AY 4.2. that has been discovered in a number of countries in Europe has been identified in Israel,” a ministry statement said late Tuesday.
An 11-year-old boy arriving from Europe was the carrier, the ministry said, adding that the case was identified at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. The boy was quarantined and no further contacts have been discovered, the ministry said.
The AY 4.2. variant has turned up several times in the United Kingdom.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held an emergency meeting on Wednesday with health ministry officials and announced that Israel would take measures “to preserve the positive results of the fight against the virus,” a statement from his office said.
Bennett requested that an epidemiological investigation into the new variant be bolstered, and urged liaison with other countries where the sub-variant has been detected.
Changes to entry requirements for visitors would also be considered.
Francois Balloux, professor of computational systems biology at University College London, has said that the subvariant is rare and does not appear to pose the same risk of significantly increased transmission as other strains.
The variant was discovered as Israel considers loosening restrictions on tourism following a drop in cases.
An earlier plan to reopen the borders foundered amid a rise in cases driven by the Delta strain.
In late August and early September, new cases topped 11,000 a day.
Authorities launched an aggressive campaign to inoculate citizens with a third, booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which drove down infections.

US outpost in Syria targeted in suspected drone attack

US outpost in Syria targeted in suspected drone attack
Updated 4 min 39 sec ago

US outpost in Syria targeted in suspected drone attack

US outpost in Syria targeted in suspected drone attack

WASHINGTON: A US outpost in southern Syria was attacked on Wednesday, but there were no reports of any American casualties from the blast, US officials told Reuters.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was too early to say who was responsible for the attack.
One of the officials said it was believed to have been a drone attack.
The garrison, known as Tanf, is located in a strategic area near Syria’s Tanf border crossing with Iraq and Jordan.
The garrison was first set up when Islamic State fighters controlled eastern Syria bordering Iraq but since the militants were driven out, it is seen as part of the larger US strategy to contain Iran’s military reach in the region.
Tanf is the only position with a significant US military presence in Syria outside the Kurdish-controlled north.
While it is not common for attacks on the US troops at the outpost, Iranian-backed forces have frequently attacked American troops with drones and rockets in eastern Syria and Iraq

Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province

Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province
Updated 20 October 2021

Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province

Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province
  • Army troops and allied tribesmen trying to regain three strategic areas Iran-backed Houthis captured in the past month

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s army troops and allied tribesmen on Wednesday launched counterattacks in the southern province of Shabwa with the aim of liberating three strategic areas that the Iran-backed Houthis captured during the past couple of weeks.
Local officials said hundreds of Yemeni troops attacked Houthis in the district of Bayhan and managed to recapture a military base along with a large swathe of land in the district after killing and capturing dozens of rebels.
Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official at Yemen’s Armed Forces Guidance Department, told Arab News on Wednesday that military units from Shabwa’s capital Attaq, Abyan province, along with security forces also took part in the offensive in Shabwa.
“This is a well-prepared military offensive,” Al-Mekhlafi said. “There are great advances for the government forces.”
After months of relentless attacks on government forces, the Houthis have recently managed to seize control of three areas in Shabwa and the besieged Abedia district in the province of Marib. The advancement put them closer to oil and gas fields and Marib city, the main goal of their continuing offensive in the province.
In Marib, dozens of combatants were killed in fierce fighting between government forces and the Houthis outside the city of Marib as the Arab coalition intensified airstrikes in the province.
Al-Mekhlafi said that at least three Houthi field leaders were killed in fighting with government forces or in the coalition’s airstrikes. Several army officers and tribesmen were also killed in the fighting.
The focus of Wednesday’s fighting was on the Juba and Hareb districts, south of Marib city, where government forces pushed to expel the Houthis from areas they controlled during their latest incursions.
Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik pledged full support to army troops and tribesmen who have fought off relentless Houthi attacks in Marib. He also urged international aid organizations to help displaced people and civilians who come under Houthi missiles, drones, and ground strikes in Marib province.
The official Yemen News Agency (SABA) reported that the prime minister called the governor of Marib, Sultan Al-Arada, to express the government’s support with Marib’s authorities in their battles against Houthis. He also praised their handling of the desperate humanitarian situation in the city of Marib, which hosts more than 2 million internally displaced people.
Abdul Malik accused the Houthis of committing genocides in Abedia and other areas in the province. The Yemeni prime minister vowed to throw full weight behind government forces in order to win the “existential” battle in Marib.
Thousands of combatants and civilians have been killed in Marib province since early this year when the Houthis resumed a major military offensive to control Marib city, the government’s last stronghold in the northern half of the country.

UN Security Council condemns Houthi violations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia

UN Security Council condemns Houthi violations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia
Updated 21 October 2021

UN Security Council condemns Houthi violations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia

UN Security Council condemns Houthi violations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi envoy to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi welcomes the Security Council statement, says it constitutes a strong condemnation of the Houthis

LONDON: The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned the threat posed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia to navigation in the Red Sea and its increasing attacks on commercial ships off the coast of Yemen.
The Security Council called on the Houthis to reduce their military escalation in Marib, lift its blockade on nearby Abedia, and for an immediate nationwide cease-fire.
The Houthi militia has stepped up its offensive to take control of the strategic city of Marib in recent weeks, following a lull in September.
The UN Security Council also condemned the Houthis’ recruitment and exploitation of children in the conflict, some of whom are subjected to sexual abuse
The top UN body also expressed its concern about the faltering peace efforts in Yemen and called on all parties to constructively implement the Riyadh Agreement.
It said it welcomes and supports the Saudi initiative to end the war in Yemen and expressed its full support for the efforts of UN envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg, calling on all parties to cooperate with him without preconditions.
The Security Council also condemned the Houthis’ attempts to target Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia using explosive-laden drones.
Member countries also implicitly warned the Houthi militia against using Hodeidah port for military purposes, and renewed its warning of the risk posed by the lack of maintenance of a floating oil tanker moored in the Red Sea. They reminded the Houthis of their responsibility for the Safer tanker.
The Security Council stressed its full commitment to the unity, sovereignty and independence of Yemen, and emphasized the need to respect the arms embargo on Yemen.
It also expressed its support for the return of the Yemeni government to the interim capital, Aden, while also condemning an assassination attempt on the governor of Aden and the Yemeni minister of agriculture on Oct. 10.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi welcomed the Security Council statement and said it constitutes a strong condemnation of the Houthi militia, Al Arabiya reported.
He also welcomed the statement on Abha airport and said he hoped that the UN envoy to Yemen has benefited from the council’s statement.

US mediator and Lebanese officials discuss future of border talks with Israel

US mediator and Lebanese officials discuss future of border talks with Israel
Updated 20 October 2021

US mediator and Lebanese officials discuss future of border talks with Israel

US mediator and Lebanese officials discuss future of border talks with Israel
  • Amos Hochstein met President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, PM Mikati and other ministers
  • Lebanon is ready “to continue to cooperate positively,” Aoun said

BEIRUT: Amos Hochstein, the US envoy appointed by the Biden administration this month to mediate Lebanon’s maritime border dispute with Israel, held talks on Wednesday with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the future of the negotiations.
Aoun expressed “Lebanon’s readiness to continue to cooperate positively” with the process. However, the points of contention remain.
“The administration of President Joe Biden is ready to help Lebanon and Israel find a mutually acceptable solution to their common maritime borders,” the State Department said.
Hochstein, who is also the State Department’s senior adviser for energy security, also met Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, Energy Minister Walid Fayyad and army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.
The speaker’s office said Berri’s discussion with Hochstein focused on “multiple files, particularly the demarcation of the maritime and land border between Lebanon and occupied Palestine. The framework agreement announced in October last year was confirmed.”
The US administration’s framework agreement for talks, which was implemented a year ago by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker, includes two demarcation zones, for land and maritime borders. In accordance with the agreement, the US acts as mediator at the request of both sides.
Lebanon has been seen as struggling with the demarcation of its maritime borders. After submitting a border proposal to the UN in 2011, Lebanese officials decided that it was based on mistaken estimates and demanded an additional 1,430 square kilometers, an area that includes part of Israel’s Karish gas field. The Israelis oppose this.
Berri told Hochstein: “We have a new opportunity to resume negotiations in the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura, thanks to the new US efforts in this context.”
He also highlighted “the importance of excluding Lebanon from the sanctions of Caesar’s law in the topics of piping Egyptian gas and electricity from Jordan through Syria to Lebanon.” Lebanon has been experiencing widespread power outages as a result of fuel shortages amid a crippling economic crisis. The Caesar Act is US legislation sanctioning the Syrian government for war crimes against the Syrian people.
“The US envoy conveyed to Berri an optimistic view about positive progress being achieved in what relates to these matters,” the speaker’s office said.
Oil industry governance expert Diana Al-Qaisi told Arab News: “The US mediator has reached out to the Egyptian minister of electricity regarding redirecting the Egyptian gas into Lebanon.”
She added that Hochstein’s talks in Lebanon focused on diplomacy and how best to facilitate negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on their maritime border to agree a mutually acceptable solution, though Lebanon continues to stand firm in its demands.
Lebanese officials have yet to agree a strategy for the next phase of negotiations and their starting point for talks on the border.
The focus of Lebanese authorities then shifted on Wednesday to the nation’s financial crisis and a forensic audit of Banque du Liban, the country’s central bank. President Aoun met a delegation from the company Alvarez and Marsal, who informed him that the audit of the bank’s accounts was due to begin on Thursday morning. Aoun urged them to work quickly due to the urgency of the task.
On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund opened negotiations with the Lebanese government to agree a strategy to begin to address the country’s insolvency.
Jihad Azour, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, stressed the need to address the losses faced by the financial sector and determine an accurate picture of the current financial situation in the country.
“Last time we had a full update of the situation was August 2020, before the resignation of the previous government, therefore many things have happened and we need to update the numbers and have a new baseline,” he said.