Habib Maalouf wrote in Al-Akhbar newspaper:
The energy sector (and electricity) is the most prominent “generator” of the economic crisis and the environmental disaster in Lebanon. This sector is the biggest “gutter” of waste and the primary cause of budget deficits and debt ballooning, in addition to being the primary cause of air pollution and related deaths. Population growth and the increase in energy demand on the one hand, and the failure to devise a strategy for rationalization and reliance on renewable resources, led to one result: increased demand, use, deficit and indebtedness …
Lebanon is capable of generating about a third (30 percent) of its energy needs, which is ten times what it currently produces, from renewable sources, according to a recent study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Renewable energy technologies have the advantage of providing stable, clean, and completely localized energy systems. In light of the economic-financial crisis and the outbreak of the Coronavirus, renewable energy sources are supposed to become a major part of recovery plans in a semi-bankrupt country.
It is known that the demand for energy in Lebanon exceeds the current generation capacity. While private producers (private generators) are helping to bridge the gap, they are, at the same time, dangerously increasing costs and air pollution rates. Note that the cost increase includes the state treasury, consumers, and the Lebanese Electricity Corporation, without it succeeding in providing any stability in securing energy!
All this did not lead to the initiation of changing plans and adopting renewable, clean and more sustainable sources, despite the development of a strategy to diversify energy sources about a decade ago. This strategy was defined in two updates to the main electricity reform paper: the first update in 2010 led to the production of the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) in 2011 and the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) for the period 2016-2020. The second update produced a “National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency” for the period between 2016 and 2020. These plans were based on studies confirming the availability of renewable energy sources and the possibility of their deployment, along with measures related to energy efficiency, to meet 12% of consumption for the purposes of generating electricity and heating by 2020 … However, all of this did not translate into serious steps in the direction of production from renewable sources.
In 2018, a new target was set to meet 30% of total primary energy consumption (electricity and heating demand) by 2030 from renewable energy sources. To date, the total installed renewable energy capacity is 350 megawatts, of which 286 megawatts from (old) hydropower sources, 7 megawatts from the Naameh landfill, and 56.37 megawatts from solar energy. This means that no significant progress has happened, despite all studies confirming that Lebanon has ample renewable energy resources that can be used, including solar energy and wind.
The Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation has prepared an action plan to guide the development of these resources. The National Initiative for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (NEEREA) was established in cooperation with the Banque du Liban, which facilitated the provision of low-interest loans to renewable energy projects, and more than 938 projects have been funded since March 2019 under this scheme. With regard to mega projects, Lebanon signed the first agreement to purchase electrical energy from renewable energy sources in 2018, with a total power of 226 megawatts … However, despite all that, these plans faltered due to several factors, including the political, legal and institutional framework that governs large projects, The lack of awareness of support plans, as mentioned in the “Renewable Energy Resources Readiness Assessment” conducted by the International Renewable Energy Agency in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy and Water and the Lebanese Energy Center. The study identified political, organizational and financial challenges to achieving the goals set for the year 2030. It proposed a methodology for assessing the readiness of renewable energy sources, as well as assessing costs, investment needs and impacts on external aspects related to air and environmental pollution. She emphasized that Lebanon has the potential to provide 30% of the electricity mix from renewable energy sources by 2030. This means doubling the share of renewable energy expected from current plans and policies, and achieving a 10-fold increase over the 3% recorded in 2014 (the base year for this analysis) ). Renewable energy could provide about 10% of Lebanon’s total final energy supply by 2030, from less than 1% in 2014.
Because of the lower costs of renewable energy technologies, their adoption could result in energy savings of $ 249 million annually, not to mention reducing the external costs of air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. In order to reduce costs and emissions, the adoption of renewable energy offers broader social and economic advantages, and other benefits such as creating new jobs and markets, pumping cash flows, and improving energy security by diversifying its sources. However, success in achieving all of this requires major adjustments to strategies, policies, regulation, technology, infrastructure and financing mechanisms … knowing that the current framework does not fully take into account the rapid economic and technological changes occurring at the national and regional levels. The evaluation concludes that many of the main challenges must be addressed to overcome the current energy crisis, create a stable legislative and regulatory framework and enforce laws, establish the Electricity Regulatory Authority, to grant licenses for the uses of generators, define powers and roles between the various institutions and related entities, simplify administrative procedures and strengthen transmission networks. Stop technical waste and develop storage systems …
Will the new government take these data and recommendations to develop capabilities and make use of available clean and sustainable energies such as sun and air? Or will the bet remain only on oil and gas exploration, which alone occupy the political and economic mind that controls the country?