Lebanon’s continued electricity blackouts signify disaster

EDL headquarters in Beirut Lebanon. The sign reads Electricité du Liban - customer service
EDL headquarters in Beirut Lebanon. The sign reads Electricité du Liban – customer service

It is incomprehensible that after nearly a quarter-century since the official end of the civil war (1975-90) Lebanon is still failing to re-secure a constant power supply to its citizens.

According to a report by Al Monitor what makes things worse is the fact that Lebanon has subsidized the state owned electricity company Electricite du Liban (EDL) with $27 billion since the end of the civil. A sad situation that summarizes the suffering of an entire country that has been beset by negligence, corruption and incompetence of governance.

In terms of numbers , according to the same study, the total accumulated deficit of EDL since the end of the civil war is about $27 billion — an unusual figure for a small country like Lebanon.

This amount represents about 40 % of the total Lebanese public debt, estimated at about $68 billion at the end of 2014.
This amount also accounts for roughly 55% of the gross national product (GNP), which is estimated at about $49 billion for the same period.

The deficit in the Lebanese electricity sector constitutes about a third of the state budget on an annual basis — a rate that has become almost constant in the last three years.

Lebanon treasury pays over $2 billion per year ($2.1 billion in 2014) to subsidize EDL losses . The worst part is that despite all these huge subsidies , Lebanon continues to suffer from ongoing electricity blackouts despite the fact that the company charges about 22.73 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is the highest in the world according to the same study.

EDL’s chronic situation has pushed the Lebanese to resort to private power generators. Entrepreneurs who are backed by politicians in their home towns or neighborhoods, purchase large power generators to supply households. They supply homes with power using the official public distribution networks in exchange for monthly subscription fees, which for nearly two decades has been a blockbuster trade in Lebanon.

In addition to the large generators there are about 500,000 smaller generators that are individually owned and operated . All these generators seriously impact the environment .


What are the reasons behind this growing national disaster? For many years, studies have been suggesting endless reasons for this crisis, including the situation of the power production plants. They are expensive to operate, given that they are old and not maintained properly, and also face a challenge in distribution, transport and technical waste because of poor network conditions, the report added

In addition, there are the issues of administrative corruption including the EDL’s failure to bill in time and collect owed bills from subscribers, in light of the security conditions in some areas in the Bekaa Valley, in north and south Lebanon and in the Palestinian refugee camps. According to the study, the cumulative total of EDL’s uncollected bills amounted to nearly $1 billion by the end of 2014.

A quarter of these bills are owed by the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, whose sum has risen in the last three years by more than a third. This overall figure is expected to rise in the coming years, given the presence of more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, some of whom are illegally consuming electricity.

According to another study an even bigger problem is that EDL has been used by political elites to distribute free electricity to their constituents.

Lebanon is facing a multitude of military, security and political problems. However, its economic burdens are no less dangerous than the other challenges the country is facing.

The electricity issue stands at the forefront of Lebanon’s economic crisis — an issue that started to take a dangerous turn — whose pattern has not changed over the past few years: great financial losses plague the government with ongoing power cuts.

The report concludes that in light of the Syrian displacement, this crisis is likely to exacerbate, causing financial failures at governmental, social, economic and environmental levels.
Al Monitor

  • AkhouManUki

    I’m surprised some dashing young Lebanese entrepreneur hasn’t found a way to change the game on electrical generators, given how dependent Lebanon is on the archaic technology.

    Nuclear powered? Think about all the young talent from Hezbollah that could step up to do some good on this one.

    • 5thDrawer

      SUN GOD RA … Please, Akhou.

      • AkhouManUki

        Looks like we’ve had a dashing young entrepreneur right here all along and didn’t even know it!

        I think you’re on the right track, but you haven’t identified how Bassil is going to exploit this business model for his personal benefit. Bribing politicians is part of any ROI model in Lebanon!

        • 5thDrawer

          Tell him the windmills will take away the wind, and make the wind-chill factor less in winter … and the solar panels will suck up heat in summer to keep him cool.
          Seems folks there believe anything …. :-))))
          (I’ll come in as your ‘ad executive’ …;-))

          • Patience2

            The Chinese are now making the cheapest Solar panels AND they have an almost death grip on the rare earths to make magnets for windmills.

          • 5thDrawer

            Thinking vertically …. various types … one example … and quiet.

  • 5thDrawer

    One MAY assume that Aoun’s son-in-law didn’t write this piece.

    • arzatna1

      You will be surprised
      Some of the Generator operators charge as much as 1000 LL per kilowatt hour . This is 66.6 cents KWH . This is also in addition to the monthly subscription fee which can be any where between $50 to $100.
      What the operators usually do is allocate say 5 amps per household . As soon as you go above the 5 amps yo get charged extra .
      It looks like blackmail and blackout go together

      • 5thDrawer

        Truly astounding. 😯

        • 5thDrawer

          Arzatna … a serious question. What happens if the ‘bill collector’ shows up and demands the $200 … or power will be cut off … and one says: ‘SO CUT … there’s no money.’
          Obviously, candles replace lights as they do most of the time anyway.
          Lose TV-fear-news at times .. and a fridge which allows things to rot … but …
          seriously … only that?

          • arzatna1

            One reason bills are not collected in some parts of the country, is because the bill collectors are killed when they make such demands . This is why bill collectors are afraid to go Amal and Hezbollah strongholds as well as Palestinian refugee camps.

          • 5thDrawer

            I’m talking about normal and jobless women who can’t pay the bill without starving …
            I’m going to advise they buy food and candles.
            Actually the wire shorted and blew off the building last week. (got a pic) Probably more safe to have none.

  • arzatna1

    What an impressive customer service sign.

    Now try get some service !!!
    it is a joke !!!

  • Patience2

    What?? Hizbullah HAS been paying their bills??

    • AkhouManUki

      Hahahahahahahahaha – good one!

  • MekensehParty

    $2bn of stolen electricity a year
    That’s $500 per citizen a year that is being added to the national debt
    Does the thief know that he will end up paying the value of what he’s stolen plus interests?
    And all the while water is flowing freely down the berdawne…

    • 5thDrawer

      And through bad rooves on apartments ….

  • nagy_michael2

    you mean they didn’t know we been having blackouts since 1965? what a jokers they are. billions of dollars and so much rain and snow. yet lebanon cannot have 6 hours of electricity every day and so many areas cannot get water. yet you see so many fake people with artificial boobs, hair and makeups as if they are trying to show the world how advanced we are. Nassrallah have advances weapons yet his Dahia keeps stealing electricity from the gov’t without paying a dime. Really? why don’t use your technology to generate electricity and bring water to homes and pave the roads instead of keep shouting and screaming and acting a cork screw up your ass. of course everyone in the gov’t to blame anyway as well.

    • 5thDrawer

      They don’t know … they have private generators. 😉 They look ‘down’ and wonder why everyone bitches.