25 March 2012

* Mikati proposes power plant construction

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s counterproposal to leasing out electricity-producing ships, due to be discussed in Cabinet next week, calls for the construction of power plants that are more cost-effective and would remain under state ownership.

“[We propose] that a tender take place in order to secure 500 MW to 1,000 MW through the construction of new, advanced power plants as well as the contingency plan to secure 700 MW,” according to the proposal, obtained by The Daily Star.

In the report the prime minister argues that the construction of power plants would be more cost-effective than leasing the electricity-generating ships.

The latter plan has the backing of Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, who has warned that any delays could cause the power rationing to increase to more than 12 hours per day.

“After consultations with international companies it was demonstrated that the cost of constructing a new power plant on the ground that can produce 500 MW (Single Cycle) would cost a maximum of $480 million and would take a maximum of one year to build from the time of the approval of the tender,” the proposal said, adding that “this power plant could be used for up to 25 years.”

Lebanon produces less than 1,400 MW of electricity, but the country’s power needs exceed 2,500 MW.

In the report, the cost of building a new power plant is contrasted with renting out ships from two foreign companies: the first a Turkish firm called KARADENIZ, the second a U.S. firm called WALLER MARINE.

The reports say it would cost $429 million dollars to lease the KARADENIZ vessel, which produces 180 MW, over a period of five years and it would cost $427 million for the same period of time to lease the WALLER MARINE vessel that produces 180 MW. The cost of the leasing does not include the price of the fuel, according to the report.

“KARADENIZ would secure a ship that produces 180 MW and would be connected to the Zouk power plant during a period of four months at a cost of $0.0653 per kwh to transfer the power. To this the consumption of an average of 214 g/kwh needs to be added with the agreement that the government consume a minimum of 8,100 electricity hours per year. Therefore, solely renting out the equipment, without including the cost of the heavy fuel oil, over a period of five years would cost $429 million.”

According to the report, WALLER MARINE “would secure a vessel that produces 180 MW for the Zouk power plant that would take six months [to connect] at a price of $0.065 to transfer the power. The price over five years from the leasing period would amount to $427 million without including the cost of the heavy fuel oil.”

The report fleshes out the reservations Mikati has expressed in the past on leasing out the vessels.

“Resolving the problem of power rationing over next summer will be impossible by using the ships given that the electricity from the vessels will not provide additional power but will instead be used to compensate for the lost power from plants under maintenance,” Mikati said in the report.

Bassil’s camp vehemently deny that the cost of leasing out electricity-generating vessels is too high.

Energy experts agree that Lebanon has missed many chances to improve electricity production, noting that electricity rationing could increase in the coming years as a result of population growth, higher GDP and more infrastructure.


Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.