Lebanon increases output after Turkish company shuts off power supply

Karpowership provides nearly a third of the country's power electricity from two barges

The Zouk power plant near the coastal city of Jounieh, north of the Lebanese capital Beirut. Anwar Amro / AFP
The Zouk power plant near the coastal city of Jounieh, north of the Lebanese capital Beirut. Anwar Amro / AFP

Lebanon’s state electricity company, Electricite du Liban, said it was increasing output in power stations across the country after Turkey's Karpowership, which provides electricity from two barges, said it was shutting down supplies over payment arrears and a legal threat to its vessels.

The company told the government this week that it would have to take the step if there were no moves to reach a settlement.

Electricite du Liban confirmed that the shutdown occurred at 8am on Friday and “led to a decrease of the total production capacities available on the Lebanese electrical network of about 240 megawatts”.

This represents nearly a third of the country’s current supply, which decreased in recent months from 2,200MW to 800MW, said Yahya Mawloud, the representative of a joint venture that operates plants in seaside towns Zouk Mikael, north of the capital, and Jiyeh, to the south.

Mr Mawloud said one of his plants was running at 100 per cent capacity and the other at 70 per cent capacity.

“I cannot increase production further because of fuel shortages,” he told The National.

Lebanon’s economic crisis is causing delays in imports, including fuel and medicine.

“To compensate in part for the shortfall resulting from the suspension of the Turkish barges’ production", EDL raised output in power plants that it operates in Zouk Mikael, Jiyeh and in the southern coastal city of Tyre. This will provide an additional 130MW to the national grid, the state company said.

The shutdown threatens longer daily power cuts across Lebanon. The heavily indebted nation did not have enough capacity to meet demand even before Karpowership's move on Friday.

Many people rely on private generators or struggle for several hours a day without power.

A source familiar with the situation told Reuters that Karpowership's payment arrears exceeded $100 million, and that the government had made no attempt to hold talks or try to resolve a legal case, despite the company's repeated appeals meant to avert a shutdown.

Lebanon's Finance Ministry said it had been notified by the Turkish company and quoted a politician who said the country could face "total darkness" in case of a shut-off. It made no public statement about talks.

Other power plant operators complained of payment delays. Primesouth, which operates two power plants in the northern coastal town of Deir Ammar and in the region of Zahrani, near the southern city of Saida, told The National in March that the government owed it $45m and had not yet come up with a plan to address its financial difficulties.

But Karpowership also faced legal problems. A Lebanese prosecutor threatened this month to seize the barges and fine the company after Lebanese TV channel Al Jadeed reported corruption accusations over the power contract.

The company, a unit of the Turkish energy company Karadeniz, denies the charges.

At the weekend, it said it had not been paid for 18 months, a period coinciding with Lebanon's financial crisis, and said that it sought a "reasonable solution" to maintain power generation.

Each of its barges has capacity of 202MW, against a contract to supply a total of 370MW.

Lebanon hopes to exchange in-kind services with Iraq for about $200m worth of heavy fuel, but the deal has yet to go through.

With reporting from agencies

Updated: May 14, 2021 05:41 PM

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