Why can’t Beirut keep the lights on?
Don’t feel too bad, Sharjah. The Paris of the Middle East is gearing up for 12 hour power outages. Every. Single. Day.
June 1, 2010 7:30 by shafeer
Sharjah is not alone as it grapples with the issues of energy production, cost, and incentives to business.
Beirut ranked 172nd for its quality of living, compared with 221 cities around the world, according to the 2010 Mercer quality of life index. Lebanon’s capital posted 16th in the region, with a score of 54.6 points, compared to the global mean of 75.5 points, and the MENA and Arab means of 62 points and 61.7 points respectively.
Let’s consider that for a moment. Beirut: beautiful sparkling jewel of the Mediterranean, Paris of the Middle East — sundrenched shoreline, cosmopolitan ambience, world class dining, great theatre, shopping. This country is so beloved to its Diaspora, that Lebanese workers abroad send home an estimated 7 billion annually in remittances. The current prime minister is a forbes ranked billionaire, who forged a coalition government incorporating the nation’s diverse constituency as a matter of expectation.
So, when Beirut posted such a poor showing, those of us that live here, couldn’t help wondering if the people at Mercer know what we know: something about a little 700 MW gap between its energy needs and its energy production.
Lebanon produces less than 1,600 MW of electricity but the actual need exceeds 2,300 MW. And many of Lebanon’s residents are looking square in the face of another summer where the government warns of daily power cuts totaling as much as 12-16 hour — just as millions of tourists and expats descend on the tiny nation for summer holidays. Power cuts that last 12 hours a day, every day, put a big chill on commerce, tourism, and investor confidence – and don’t do much for our quality of life, either.
A couple of years ago, I lived in the sprawling urban capital of a tiny Latin American country with a large and infamous reputation. While residing in said capital –which shall remain nameless to protect the honor of its very fine inhabitants –my friends in Lebanon very much enjoyed jokes at my expense. One friend in particular, a lifelong Beiruti resident, was fond of saying, “what is it that attracts you to such primitive places?” To this comment, I can only say, “They managed to keep the lights on.”
ED’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story erroneously claimed there was a 7,000 MW gap between energy supply and demand. We regret the error.