Nothing More Permanent than the Temporary OR Electricity in Lebanon

Lebanese Ministry of Electricity Campaign

Lebanese Ministry of Energy Promising 24/7 electricity

“Nothing more permanent than the temporary” – This is what my mother says after her lifetime of experience in moving houses and countries, and I think she got that proverb from her mother too, who being a military wife and having witnessed WWII had her share of moving. Every time we would settle in a new place, we would put off doing things and reforms, like painting a wall, adding an extra kitchen cabinet, or shelf, changing the hangers, updating the upholstery…,  until “better times” , but these seemed to not arrive … and then we moved again…

I have been hearing that the problems with electricity cuts will be resolved, and we will have 24/7 electricity, ever since I was 10But something always seemed to get in the way, be it a little war, a bombing of the Power Station, a revolution…

And over a decade and a half later, I came to accept the electricity cut outs, and think of them as the government’s way to educate us about resource scarcity, global warming and saving energy, while contemplating alternative energy sources. Come global warming or any natural catastrophe, I guarantee the Lebanese will have the highest survival rate.

Last month, I was at an international conference in the Riviera Hotel in Beirut, even the Kenyan representative, whose country also suffers from power cuts, was smirking with the power blackouts and the generators inability to handle the Air Conditioners. The Lebanese organizers really felt ashamed…

Can the Ministry of Energy really keep its promise this time? But it is great that they are approaching the subject with self irony, admitting that something is OFF with Lebanon now.

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  1. Riham’s avatar

    I’m really happy you wrote about this.
    Not only have we come to accept these cuts, but learned to live with them. Just last week I replaced the power supply in my computer, bought a new router and a UPS because all these cuts have ruined my computer (3 one minute cuts in less than 10 minutes, followed by 1 hour). No complaints, just found a way to avoid it from happening again. We do not have a generator in my building, so we all plan our outings and come backs according to the “schedule”
    I am not generally optimistic when it comes to us having electricity 24/7 in my lifetime. I have been hearing this promise my whole life, and yet here we are, still having them everyday, even more than before, for three hours and then 1.5 hours at night. I do not think they should be making promises we both know they cannot keep.


    1. Darine Sabbagh’s avatar

      Thank you for bringing that up Riham. At my new place, power cuts are 6 hours per day on average. At Tripoli for instance, the cuts are 9-12 hours a day. And teh generator infrastructure, either in building or through various “companies” does not provide the required quality of power: we can not turn on ELEVATORS, heaters, ACs, washing machines, and sometimes even fridges and electric tea pots… Plus our appliances get screwed over and don’t last that long.
      And we Lebanese, have created so many routines to live around that.
      On the other hand, when there is a scheduled maintenance for the electricity in Belarus ( one hour only per year), all the neighborhood goes crazy…


  2. Mich’s avatar

    I left Lebanon in 1985 because of the electricity cuts! At one point, they got unbearable and ruled our lives. Everything revolved around when and if there would be power, what to do when it eventually came and carrying gas up five flights for the generator! At one point, with a sick mother, they became life threatening.
    And until now, I appreciate every single second of having 24/7 electricity. It should be one of our first priorities on every single level. Great post! :-)


    1. Darine Sabbagh’s avatar

      Thank you for the lovely insight Mich.


  3. Mark’s avatar

    Just yesterday I was talking to my Lebanese friends here at the office and I was asking them the exact same thing, how come we still don’t have electricity in Lebanon? In Kuwait where I am now for example we had some power cuts this year. Turns out the country was producing around 10,000megawatts or something of electricity but we were using 9,800. So by next year they are increasing the production by 2,000 so that we have 12,000megawatts and by 2015 we would be producing 20,000megwatts.

    How many megawatts of electricity does lebanon produce? how many do we consume? are we building powerplants? how many megawatts will they add, when will they be completed? etc…

    where can we find this info??


    1. Darine Sabbagh’s avatar

      Mark, I wish any of us knew… will continue searching and maybe will let you know if I find out something :)


  4. Sleiman’s avatar

    As temporarily permanent as Art. 95 of our beloved Constitution :)


  5. BritinBeirut’s avatar

    As much as I agree with Riham that Lebanese adaptability has overcome the problem of power cuts, it still does immeasurable damage to the economy of the country.

    Every home pays exorbitant rates for generator-provided electricity. Every home has to run UPS’es for fear of their appliances shorting out. Riham has bought new accessories for her computer, costing $’s.

    Businesses are affected. Power cuts affect Internet connectivity and reduce overall productivity.

    The power situation, allied with the other infrastructure issues, also discourages outside investment.

    No, it’s great that the Lebanese have adjusted. However, it’s still an incredible drain on the economy, both in terms of businesses, and for individuals.

    Finally, it amuses me that I, as an adult, face a 12.00PM curfew when the lights go out. I feel like it’s Big Brother telling me it’s time to go to bed.


    1. Darine Sabbagh’s avatar

      And let us not forget, being forced to run to to your appliances and turn them off , before back up power kicks in :)


  6. Mark’s avatar

    Just found out the answer to my question and I’m going wtf?

    The plan calls for allocating $4.870 billion to boost power production from 1,500 MW to 4,000 MW in 2014.

    Out of this $4.870 billion, the state will spend $1.550 billion, the private sector $2.320 billion and the remaining $1 billion will come in the form of soft loans from the donor countries.

    The plan calls for investing another $1.650 billion in the long run so Lebanon can produce 5,000 MW of electricity.

    So we just produce 1,500MW of electricity? Sounds too little. I mean Kuwait has a population similar in size to Lebanon and we produce and consume 10,000MW here. I guess people use too much AC here… but why can Kuwait get 2,000MW built in a year and an extra 10,000MW in 5 years while in Lebanon its taken us 2 decades to say its going to take us another half a decade to add just a measly 2,500MW?


  7. Mohamad Najem’s avatar

    I was trying to find UPSes in Google and you were first in search :)
    Any way, since I read your nice story, I would like to share that in the mid eighties we lost electricity for couple of years. Really!! The Fridge was our Namlieh :)




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