As of last summer, the southern village of Qabrikha–in the Marjeyoun area of Nabatieh–has benefited from a generous installation of solar panels, funded by the European Union. It’s no secret that the government-run electricity sector is not able to provide electricity 24/7 to residents, and this concept runs deeper in more remote areas of Lebanon, with power cuts lasting 12 hours on average.
The common solution to this problem is to turn to privately-owned generator companies that can supplement the missing power. However, this has a downside: These generators produced a great deal of pollution, as they run on diesel fuel. And, since the recent UN report of the ominous warming of our planet, this is an issue of great consequence.
As part of the UN’s project CEDRO, the EU has invested 365,718 euros (roughly $400,000) in the installation of a number of solar panels in the village of Qabrikha, as an experiment in public solar power.
Qabrikha was chosen specifically because, unlike many other areas of Lebanon, its generator system is run by the municipality rather than by private companies, and the transition from generators to solar power would remain within the municipality.
As explained by CEDRO project manager Hassan Haraji to The Daily Star, “It’s a common microgrid system that you find worldwide in many countries, but in Lebanon’s case, it’s a dual-mode microgrid,” which allows the solar plant to connect to the generator network ‘when there’s no electricity from the grid.’
The good news is that the Qabrikha project won’t be the only one of its kind in Lebanon. According to a statement by the EU, Qabrikha was just one of “several innovative projects promoting energy efficiency and small-scale renewables [in Lebanon].”
Continued in its statement, the EU said, “By using renewable sources and energy more efficiently, municipalities and citizens can lower their energy bills, reduce their reliance on private generators and support the transition toward a carbon-neutral economy. In addition, clean technologies are also opening up new opportunities for the industry and investors, and therefore leading to new job opportunities.”
The Mayor of Qabrikha, Ismael Hijazi, is in full agreement with this idea. “It’s a very good project, first for the people because they will pay less in electricity bills, and also for the municipality,” he said.
Yet, it’s still unclear what the economic implications will be of this new initiative, as only time will tell. As of now, the Lebanese law allows those who install solar panels to earn savings from their Electricité du Liban bills, based on their consumption.
However, the same did not hold true for outer areas of Lebanon because there was no law set in place to enable that. But now, CEDRO has initiated a framework that would allow municipal energy sectors to tap into the EDL grid, making this possible.
This could serve as a model for future endeavors in solar energy around the country, which could spark a real change in the way Lebanon handles its power. However, solar panels are costly, and it will take more efforts by powerhouses like the UN and the EU in order to effect a noticeable difference.
For now, it is certainly noteworthy that Lebanon has taken this first step in joining the global movement to reduce carbon emissions for the future of the planet, and hopefully, as the matter remains a pressing issue, more projects of this kind will develop in other areas of the country.