The dire situation of the Lebanese electricity sector is no secret. Power generation and distribution has been a financial burden on the government and citizens for decades and has paved the way for a lucrative black market. The Lebanese electricity company, Electricité Du Liban (EDL), has been operating on a deficit and has cost the government over $ US 20 billion, over 50% of the country’s GDP, between 1992 and 2014. Despite that, the sector still suffers from nation-wide electricity rationing ranging from 3-hour a day cuts in the capital Beirut to over 12 hour cuts on a daily basis in other areas. Connecting to a private generator costs a household up to $100 per 5 amperes per month, approximately 22% of minimum wage. The government has tried to regulate private generator fees by limiting them to 400 LBP per hour for 5 amperes. Such policies have been met with resistance by generator owners and has lead to little progress.
In response to this never-ending problem, ABC Achrafieh, a mall in Beirut, decided to take matters into their own hands and has installed photovoltaic panels on their roof. Covering an area of 4,000 m2 and providing 0.45 MW – enough to power 500 houses, it is considered the largest private solar plant in Lebanon.
Considering the continuous political deadlock and massive structural problems with the electricity sector, this initiative may prove to be the most realistic solution in the medium-term. Not only would solar power help reduce the energy deficit of EDL by reducing consumption from the ailing public service provider, it will provide a reliable, environmental-friendly solution to households and business in the country and lead to overall health benefits by decreasing reliance on unregulated and polluting private generators. The government would do well to encourage such attempts.