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Lebanon’s new power deal with Syria and Jordan a long way off

Plagued by constant power shortages, Lebanon’s new deal with Jordan and Syria could be seen as a turning point for the energy-poor country.

Yet the deal – which will allow electricity to flow out of Syria – will not provide an immediate solution to the country’s energy problems, according to Lebanese oil and gas expert Laury Hatayan.

Speaking to Arab News, Hatayan said there were still a lot of hurdles to overcome before the deal – brokered by the US and expected to be partially funded by the World Bank – would start helping the country. cope with power outages.

“The deal does not mean that Lebanon will be supplied with electricity tomorrow, as we learn that the World Bank has made the finalization of the arrangement conditional on power sector reforms,” ​​Hatayan said.

The deal would supply Lebanon with a total of 700 megawatts of electricity: 250 MW from Jordan and 450 MW from Egypt.

With the Iraqi fuel supplies which have already started and the future supply by Egypt, Lebanon will be able to obtain a total of 10 hours of electricity per day.

This much-needed boost does not come without conditions, according to Marc Ayoub, energy researcher and program coordinator at the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut.

“The World Bank is calling for a comprehensive power sector reform plan, including reducing losses, improving bill collection and increasing electricity tariffs,” he said.

World Bank regional director Saroj Kumar Jha said the exact amount of funding has yet to be determined, but the government’s initial request was for $250 million, he told The East Today.

Lebanon will also have to carry out repairs on the Lebanese side of a pipeline needed to import gas from Egypt, at a cost of $1 million.

Moreover, Jordanian electricity in Lebanon will cost 200 million dollars per year.

Other obstacles are political in nature, such as US sanctions against Syria. Washington has so far assured regional players that the deal does not fall under Caesar Act sanctions or other US sanctions on Syria, as the Syrian government will not receive any financial compensation but will be paid in kind.

“The Egyptians want to obtain guarantees against the Caesar law. The Jordanians are not as suspicious given their strategic relationship with the United States,” adds Hatayan.

The deal and any electricity reform must be approved by parliament, which is notorious for its inefficiency and divisiveness.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s announcement of his intention to retire from political life has cast doubt on the fate of his current political bloc. Hariri leads the Future Movement, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament.

“For now, no reform means no money and agreements can remain mere agreements (without being implemented),” Hatayan stresses.

If funding is finally secured, Ayoub believes Jordanian electricity should arrive in Lebanon by April or May.

Steve R. Hansen