Tags Posts tagged with "electricity"

electricity

If you live in Lebanon, you would probably fall out of your chair if I told you government ministers were being awarded for public services. With no constant supply of water or electricity, no sewage treatment, poor roads and zero police presence to maintain public safety on highways, most Lebanese know very well that the state is not an award-winning–or even a decent– provider of anything. As a result, people have to fend for themselves, installing their own water tanks and generators.

The problem is that diesel-fueled generators, used to provide power (and pump water) are terribly expensive and polluting. The air quality in Beirut is dangerously toxic according to researchers at AUB and generators are one of the biggest culprits. This summer is one of the worst yet with the state frequently providing less than six hours per day in many areas.

In addition to pollution, dark streets pose a danger on their own. Here’s Beirut’s most famous road, the seaside Corniche, last week:

It’s a place where thousands walk and jog at night, now increasingly by flashlight:

But it can also be dangerous during the day, in the city’s network of dark tunnels:

So how is it that amid this haze of polluted air, dark and dangerous streets, and citizens spending all of their money on fuel, that Lebanon’s energy and water minister wins an award for “Energy Ambassador of the Year”?

I’ve checked the website of “Beirut International Energy Forum” which issued the medal to Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, but there were no details about the selection process, the jury or the basic criteria that makes candidates eligible. We are only provided with two sentences (that sound almost the same) about this award:

Over the past years, IBEF has given awards to the top leading personalities in the Energy sector for their achievements. Since 2013, the International Beirut Energy Forum acknowledges energy professionals and professional institutions for their achievements in the sustainability sector.

So what achievements are we talking about here? What achievements have been made when Lebanon has not had stable electricity production or transmission since the network was built during the first half of the century? What sustainability are we talking about when Lebanon’s energy is produced by burning fossil fuels at decrepit plants spewing black smoke out of their exhaust towers? What’s more, nearly half of the supply is not even produced by the state itself, but by rented power ships from Turkey parked off of our coastline? Is that sustainable?

Zouk power plant. Credit: L’Orient Le Jour

And as citizens pay more money for electricity every year, politicians are only getting richer, and there are rumors that many do not even pay for electricity in the first place. People will often boast that the power rarely cuts in their neighborhood due to the presence of a politician or state institution nearby.

Meanwhile, in much of the county, blackouts can last for over 12 hours, and power can even be out for several days, due to lack of maintenance, downed lines and very slow repairs.

But there is no need to single out minister Abi Khalil. Many officials and business owners profit from the electricity sector and its lucrative black market. Abi Khalil is the latest in a long line of ministers to make big promises about the future. In fact every Energy minister since the first postwar government in 1992 has promised 24 hour electricity and failed to do so:

Over that period, billions of dollars have been poured into the country’s power grid but corruption seems to be the only winner. The same can be said of other public service sectors, such as waste management, water distribution and telecommunications, where services are poor and yet citizens are paying some of the highest rates in the world for them.

Indeed to survive in Lebanon, is a feat on its own. Perhaps it is Lebanese citizens that should be getting awards instead of the privileged politicians and the daily incompetence we must endure.

 

 

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After years of darkness it seems the northern suburbs of Beirut will finally be lit up at night. Like most highways in Lebanon, the street lamps in the Dora area are constantly turned out due to electricity cuts. Finally, someone seems to have decided to rely on the sun instead of the failing national power company. And it’s hard to imagine why this wasn’t done years ago.

But the solar panels are set up only on a small patch of highway.

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They seem quite close together:

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Maybe because they don’t give out a lot of light?

The work began a few weeks ago.

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The company is called Irsal Telecom Solutions Provider, as seen on the truck:

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I wonder if anyone knows more about this company or the cost/duration of this contract and whether it will be expanded to other areas. Sadly, there exists no publicly accessible database or website listing government projects–at least to my knowledge–so that the public can keep track of such projects and know how their money is being spent. Because as it stands, most citizens will know only about what they see with their eyes after it has been paid for and executed.

Poles are now going up in the Nahr El Mawt area. Could this be the next site of solar panel lighting?

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Let’s hope these lights will be effective and properly maintained. Can you imagine if the whole national highway was lit up at night? One can dream.

UPDATE:

Shortly after posting this, I noticed that only a handful of the new lamps were working tonight:

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Maybe they are still installing them?

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    This week’s two-day war in Saida plunged Lebanon into darkness as the fighting supposedly knocked Zahrani power plant offline.

    This is what Hamra’s main street looked like a couple of nights ago. The outages continued today with six hour cuts in the capital and far more nationwide.  

    Wired.com 

    While the film “Back to the Future II” promised the futuristic floating skateboards would be the norm by 2015…

    as seen on the time machine dash board:

    In Lebanon 2015 will be the year people can dream of having 24/7 electricity, according to Energy Minister Gebran Bassil.

    He made the promise this week from a power generator ship, hoped to help alleviate Lebanon’s decades-old electricity shortage:

    He’s not the first energy minister to promise solutions to our chronic power crisis. But let’s hope Bassil’s words will be truer than the fiction of the 1989 film; which is sure to let geeks down all over about 18 months from now.

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      I’m half-way across the world but the parallels to home are everywhere here in Panama. 
      Like Lebanon, Panama has small a population of around 4 million, its borders are strategic and have been the subject of domination by world powers like the US. 
      Economically speaking, the country is awash in dollars, the private sector–especially banking–is robust and yet the average wage is a few hundred bucks per month.
      But you don’t have to be a geo-political expert to see the similarities. 
      In some ways the visuals speak for themselves. 
      Spiderwebs of power lines:
      You pay for 4G but mostly get “E” or 2G on the top of your screen:
      US currency is king and all the prices are in dollars:
      Yet the power even went out in our hotel:

      And the highways are unlit:

      Women’s bodies are objectified with abandon:

      Lingerie ads seem tailored to men:

      The police patrol the streets by driving two miles an hour with the lights on:

      Heels are business casual:

      Shed roof low rises sit next to glass and steel towers: 

       Traffic is all day:

       Street parking is the norm, even on the corners:

       The politicians love Twitter and Facebook:

      The poor stay connected with dishes:
      Lebanese traders have left their mark:
      Especially in the port’s free zone:
       
      Where a Lebanese-owned shawerma stand has operated for years.

      In fact, I’ll be taking a closer look at at Panama’s sizable Lebanese business community in the next issue of Bold Magazine. They seem to fit right at home.