Fuel Crisis Halts Lebanon's Main Power Plant

Electricity in Lebanon was completely cut off due to the fuel crisis. Only a few people can use generators, while others only rely on candles for lighting. The absence of electricity also affects businesses.

The fuel crisis
The fuel crisis caused a total blackout in Lebanon. (Getty Images/Spencer Platt)

ACTNews, LEBANON – Lebanon has no centrally generated electricity after fuel shortages forced its two largest power stations to shut down, a government official told Reuters on Saturday (10/9/2021). Complete darkness shrouds Lebanon at night. The only light comes from candles, flashlights, or light from the vehicles that pass several times.

Lebanon's state electricity company, Electricite du Liban (EDL), warned in September that the country could plunge into a total blackout in October, amid dwindling fuel reserves, as the company is unable to generate the minimum 600 megawatts needed daily for the network to function properly.

Wandering the streets of Beirut after sunset, car headlights are often the only thing breaking through the pitch-black night. The omnipresent sound of car engines during rush hour fades away at night, to be replaced by the buzz of generator engines as if Beirut were a giant beehive. But instead of honey, the air of the city is thick with the smell of generator exhaust fumes.

Complete outages have disrupted basic aspects of daily life, with Lebanese now reliant on private generators also known as ishtirak - but even private providers have had to impose their power cuts for at least six hours a day, due to fuel shortages. Those who can afford it have purchased uninterruptible power supply (UPS) backup units, batteries, and a voltage regulator when both state and private electricity are not available.

People's businesses that use electricity also suffer huge losses. Mohammad Kichly, one of the barbers in Lebanon, said his business was very difficult to develop in recent months. Limited electricity makes the air conditioner in the room off. The barber room got very hot, and no customers came. Meanwhile, when the power goes out completely, Kichly cannot recharge his shaver.

Across the street from Kichly’s barbershop, Rami Hussein owns a small grocery store - but in recent months, he has had to severely pare down the items available for sale.

“I no longer sell any dairy products. It is too risky now,” he tells MEE. “Imagine if any of my customers, who are also my neighbors, get food poisoning because they ate spoiled cheese bought from my store.”

Being a small neighborhood shop owner, Hussein prioritizes his reputation above all, but he feels stuck between a rock and a hard place. “If I want to keep my refrigerators running on a private generator, I will have to pay more than I earn,” he explains. “It's not worth it. But with cutting back on some products, I no longer generate the necessary profits to make ends meet for my family.

The electric grid shutdown comes amid an already devastating economic crisis blamed largely on decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling class, with the Lebanese currency losing over 90 percent of its value in less than two years. Various commodities experienced very high price increases. Food prices have skyrocketed by 404 percent.[]