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Going green

Going green

With power consumption and pollution in Lebanon increasing, the country is finally planning to tap into renewable energy sources.

September 16, 2009 9:57 by

It’s not uncommon to see dark clouds of smog hovering over Beirut and other Lebanese cities. It should come as no surprise that environmental protection has become a cause that cuts across sectarian lines. In a country of strong winds and around 300 sunny days per year (and where losses at the state power company amount to almost 5 percent of GDP), one thing the fractious political spectrum seems to agree on is the need to tap renewable energy sources.

The main sources of pollution include vehicle traffic and power plants in the capital, Jiyeh, and Kesrouan region, with cement factories in Chekka in the north adding to the toxic mix. Government and aid groups alike have been putting renewed emphasis on solar power,with at least three international donors consideringusing a portion of reconstruction aid to finance the installation of solar technology in newly built residences in the war-torn south. One project, for example, seeks to spend $12 million installing 12,000 solar thermal water-heating units in houses that were destroyed in southern villages, replacing the previous electric heaters.

Environmentalists say renewable energy not only gives the country a viable alternative to traditional fossil-fuel power, but would also, if implemented widely, reduce the country’s frequent power outages. Lebanon experiences eight hours of power cuts on average every day, while the government spends close to $1.5 billion each year to staunch losses at Electricité Du Liban (EDL), the state power company.

According to the Ministry of Energy and Water, a massive transition to solar water heaters would lead to energy savings of 10 percent, thus easing some of the pressure on EDL while reducing household energy expenditures by 25 to 30 percent.The ministry is looking into mechanisms to finance such a shift.

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