Lebanon's power barges to restart supplies despite unpaid bills, owner says

Karpowership pulled plug a month ago when it was owed $100m

FILE PHOTO: Karadeniz Powership Orhan Bey, an electricity-generating ship from Turkey, docked at the port of Jiyeh, south of Beirut, Lebanon August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

A Turkish company until recently providing almost a quarter of Lebanon’s power will restart generation a month after pulling the plug over unpaid bills.

Karpowership provided almost a quarter of the country’s power before its two barges were withdrawn from service in May. Resumption of supply was a goodwill gesture, Reuters reported.

The company was owed more than $100 million, a source told Reuters at the time.

The source said Beirut had made no attempt to avert a shutdown despite the company's repeated appeals.

Cutting off the barges' output led to longer daily power cuts across the country, with state-owned utility Electricity du Liban gradually reducing its supply in the weeks that followed because of a shortage of fuel oil.

Lebanon's Central Bank rationed its subsidies of oil imports to preserve its dwindling foreign currency reserves, with Electricity du Liban providing only up to four hours of electricity daily to many regions.

Privately-owned generators used to compensate for state power rationing cut their daily supply of electricity, plunging entire neighbourhoods in darkness for hours.

Electricity has been an issue in Lebanon since the end of the country’s 15-year civil war in 1990, with Electricity du Liban incurring annual losses averaging $1.5bn in recent years by selling electricity on subsidised tariffs at half the cost of production.

The blackouts fuelled demonstrations. People took to the streets to protest against government corruption and deteriorating living conditions.

On Monday, Lebanon’s main public hospital announced its had to ration electricity as it struggled to find diesel supplies for its generators.

“Electricity cuts last more than 21 hours per day. There is no fuel for our generators and even when we do find fuel, we have no liquidity [cash] to buy it,” Firass Abiad, the chief executive of Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, wrote in a tweet.

“We have decided to stop using air conditioning, except in our medical units, despite the heatwave,” he said. “We are truly in hell.”

Updated: June 29th 2021, 5:51 PM
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