LEFT IN THE WIND FOR THE MOMENT
In February 2018, the Ministry of Energy and Water, representing the Government of Lebanon, had signed power purchase agreements with three developers of wind farms for the development, installation and operation of wind generators in the Akkar region with cumulative wind power capacity. of 226 MW. Under the terms of the agreement, the first units of electricity produced by these projects were supposed to be fed into the national electricity grid, and not too soon, given the current state of the electricity sector in the country.
Unfortunately, the project has been delayed and has not really taken off to date. The current financing difficulties make it unlikely to resume unless it obtains external financing.
If the project were to be carried out, it would generate over 800 million kWh of electricity per year, enough to power 200,000 Lebanese households, operating on the hills and ridges of Akkar. It would employ more than 600 people during the construction period, made up mostly of local talent and skills, and provide stable rental income to dozens of landowners and several municipalities over the 20-year period of the agreement.
A VISION BLOWN IN THE WIND
Against all odds, the plan was, and still is, to build a state-of-the-art power generation project in one of Lebanon’s most pristine regions: Akkar. We as developers dreamed big. In addition to the wind farm, our vision includes an ecotourism attraction that celebrates the history of the region and incorporates hopes for the future. It is a center of leisure and education that brings together people from all over the country. A learning center provides resources for schools and community groups, as well as educational activities. The site also includes 40 kilometers of cycle paths, as well as multi-use grade trails constructed from recycled waste generated during construction and intended for picnics, sightseeing and event planning.
Yes, it is a mega infrastructure project but with a clear and beneficial social and environmental footprint.
Unfortunately, this did not happen. At the end of 2019, and after the project obtained letters of intent from international donors very early on, the brutal financial crisis occurred, with its devastating consequences at all levels, consequences that we all know too well. good.
Where do we go from here? Do we, as private sector investors call it, quit? Are we going to give up after preparing all the necessary studies and investing considerable sums to reduce the risks of the electricity sector in Lebanon, to secure the land needed for the wind farm project and keep it secure even to this day?
There is no doubt that Lebanon is in desperate need of power. We are ready to take over our business. Give us stability and the wind farms will be operational in 18 months.
What is needed for this?
Immediate and large-scale action. We need to move forward with renewable energy projects. This is not limited to wind farms, but also includes solar energy projects.
Fundraising ideas are always available if we collectively think outside the box. Carol Ayat, a respected energy finance professional and investment banker, presented an innovative plan in this regard (see article on page 40). His article on a new financing model for financing electricity projects in the areas of generation, transmission and distribution deserves serious discussion with stakeholders. Its win-win proposal opens the possibility for depositors in the Lebanese banking sector to invest their âlollarsâ in such projects. The central bank Banque du Liban (BDL) would exchange these âlollarsâ against part of the hard currencies it still holds to finance these projects.
Another idea to consider is that the Lebanese government explore the possibility of using part of the special drawing rights newly allocated to Lebanon by the International Monetary Fund to provide low interest loans and / or the guarantees necessary to finance such projects. . Through this regime, the government would invest that money and earn returns.
We need to boost renewable energies. We need to start and finish the wind farm project that we started eight years ago.