Lebanese Turn To Solar Energy Amid Crisis


Almost three years into Lebanon’s trifecta of economic, social and political crises, many Lebanese are desperate to find solutions. With no reliable source of electricity, those who can afford it are leading a shift towards green energy, predominantly solar.

As Lebanon's energy crisis cripples the country's infrastructure and the daily lives of the Lebanese, citizens are finding new ways to manage.

Mohammed Nehme, a high-school teacher from southern Lebanon, asked his brother in Germany to loan him a few thousand dollars to install a solar energy system for his household.

"The situation became unbearable," Nehme said. "My daughters studied for their high-school graduation exams during total blackouts with flashlights from their cellphones."

"We reached zero hours of electricity from the state earlier this summer and local private generators were also limiting their supply – all while prices soared," said Nehme.

"I don't want my daughters to live the same way we lived during the civil war; I had to find an escape out of darkness," he added.

The current economic crisis in Lebanon is the worst in recent memory, with 2020 seeing a default on the nation's debt and the value of the currency plummeting.

The government-run Eléctricité du Liban (EDL) generates roughly 90% of the nation's electricity but has only been able to supply power to homes for a few hours a day. Homes are experiencing prolonged power outages and some areas see blackouts lasting up to 23 hours per day.

Many Lebanese have resorted to using pricey privately-owned diesel generators. But the use of generators has also been complicated by the economic turmoil, including surging fuel prices – due in part to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and exacerbated by Lebanon's weak currency – as well as the revocation of government subsidies.

The finances of many Lebanese households are hurting, forcing them once again to seek alternatives, and many are turning to solar energy. But the lack of regulation in the nascent sector also means that prices fluctuate significantly between providers and regions.

Samir Haj Ali, a local solar energy systems provider in southern Lebanon, told FRANCE 24 that he charges at least $2,500 for a modest 5-amp energy system – a price that is out of reach for most Lebanese.

However, a lack of regulation has given rise to a new raft of problems. Ali said that many of those now working in Lebanon's solar industry are not specialists, and their installations have led to technical issues including fires.

Jessica Obeid, an energy expert, said Lebanon's solar market is suffering from "a lack of regulation, quality control and awareness".

The result is significant safety hazards, low-quality equipment, and the installation of solar systems that will cause many consumers to pay tremendous amounts for equipment maintenance and replacement. 

"Eventually, the market will improve, but that will take years and be costly," Obeid said.



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