Following the inability of the power barge to dock in Lebanon’s southern coastal town of Jiyyeh on Monday, which caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said was due to weather conditions, the State-run National News Agency however reported that it was prevented from entering the premises of Jiyyeh’s power plant by “concerned authorities” since it did not have a permit.
Following the report from the National News Agency, Abi Khalil had stated at a news conference that “the problem … was caused by the weather and high wind speed … the captain of the ship told us there was danger [posed to the barge].”
For the residents, the news meant that this second power barge, which can provide 200MW of electricity for free for 3 months, was unable to connect to the country’s grid. Incidentally, Jiyyeh is already home to one, which is also owned and operated by Karadeniz Holding, a Turkish company, since 2013.
The arrival of the power barge had led to anger and consternation from Jiyyeh’s residents, with Jiyyeh Mayor George Kazzi saying he was confused by the decision to dock the barge there instead of in Zahrani in the south.
“We were surprised today when we saw this huge ship heading toward us. They told us it would be placed in Zahrani,” said George Kazzi. He went on to add, “We are waiting to see where it will be placed before taking the next steps” in reference to the potential measures municipal officials might take if the barge settles in Jiyyeh.
Questioning why Zahrani was ruled out as the power barge’s home George Kazzi said, “Did they refuse it because of potential pollution? Well, if they want to bring it here we won’t accept it [either]”.
Despite its large and subsidized budget, in 2017 state-run Electricite du Liban generated an average capacity of 2,066 MW, far short of the 3,400 MW peak demand. Those that live in Beirut receive 21 hours of electricity per day while those outside of the capital have electricity for only 14 hours a day, said a source.
While the power barges are meant as a stopgap solution to Lebanon’s electricity shortage, they have since long been a source of controversy over alleged high costs, corruption and pollution concerns.