Lebanon to reach a 12 percent usage rate of renewable energy by 2020

Water and Energy Minister Jibran Bassil criticized on Friday the chaotic electricity network available in Lebanon and said that technical and legislative changes need to take place in order to introduce renewable energy in the country.

"We are not ready on the technical and legislative levels but we are committed to deal with these issues and get over with them as soon as possible," he said, adding that "We need a smart grid in Lebanon."

Bassil said that the reform plan his ministry has prepared has been taking time to be implemented due to the lack of proper work in three fields including renewable energy, demand management and a better quality of electricity at a lower price.

Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind power, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished).

"We all know that these three elements are interrelated and their proper work will lead to adopting more and more renewable energy plans," he said.

His remarks came during a forum which was organized by the McGill Alumni Association of Lebanon. Dubbed "Leading for a better future: Electricity generation through renewable energies," the forum brought together decision-makers and stakeholders from the country’s energy sector, governmental and municipal authorities, technology providers in the private sector as well as non-governmental organizations.

The conference, which was held at the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel in Beirut, provided a platform for discussing and sharing ideas about the energy generation strategy in Lebanon for the coming decade.

A report issued by Booz & Company, the leading global management consulting firm, said that in most Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, the regulatory environment is such that national utility companies define power generation requirements, which they must meet at the lowest possible cost. Accordingly, their delivery models usually involve private developers under independent water and power producer (IWPP) schemes, it added. Hence, it continued, this procurement model is geared toward large-scale, conventional power stations who take on complex contracts.

The report also said that renewable energy projects cannot be readily integrated into this model. Therefore, MENA countries must make substantial changes in the regulatory framework to ensure renewable energy projects can fit the model, and create incentives that would kick-start renewable energy investments.

Bassil said that the ministry’s aim is for Lebanon to reach a 12 percent usage rate of renewable energy by 2020, "which is feasible due to the highly skilled human resources available in Lebanon in addition to the special nature of the country.

"When I first came to office I was a bit worried of this number but today I think that we should be able to achieve a better record by then," he said.

Bassil added that the ministry is starting to do a great job in the field of renewable energy. "The government last week allocated $9 million for these projects," he said. "This indicates that the government is highly committed to such projects by taking actions and not just through ministerial statements."

He called on Lebanese investors and businessmen to work on spreading the culture of renewable energy consumption by going into projects that depend highly on such plans.

He believes that Lebanese people can turn these ideas into actions by putting aside the political decision. "The problem in Lebanon has always been that of a political decision, but I can assure you that today we have both the will and the decision to go on with this project," he added.

He said that ‘wind energy atlas’, which will determine the best locations in Lebanon to produce energy by use of the wind power, has started lately. "The start with this project is a very good indicator as well and Lebanon will go on with it," he said.

Wind Atlas aims at providing reliable and accurate data sets for evaluating the potential wind power output from large electricity-producing wind turbines installations. "We stand to benefit between 100 and 500 megawatts of wind power output by using wind turbines," he said.

Bassil also called for the establishment of a Sun Atlas but said that the biggest obstacle is the small and expensive lands in Lebanon.

Other speakers at the forum included Tobias Grimm, the deputy head of corporate climate center Munich Re in Germany. Grimm discussed large-scale renewable energy power generation through Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), a project developed by a consortium of 12 companies and spearheaded by Munich Re and the Desertec Foundation.

For his part, Tarek El Sayed, representative of UAE Booz & Co, said that the MENA region has an opportunity to reinvent its energy sector and even its countries’ overall economies.

"Recent developments in renewable energy, combined with the region’s latent potential in wind and solar power, could create a significant advantage for those countries that move decisively to capitalize on them," Sayed said.

Source: Daily Star, www.dailystar.com.lb.