Demand jumps for renewable energy as Lebanon plunged into darkness

An aerial view shows Lebanon's capital Beirut in darkness during power outage. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 October 2021

Demand jumps for renewable energy as Lebanon plunged into darkness

  • Two main power stations offline because of fuel shortage
  • People seeking alternative to costly private generators

BEIRUT: Lebanon is witnessing significant demand for the installation of solar power units, amid a severe energy crisis that saw the country plunged into a total blackout on Saturday.

Two main power stations went offline because they ran out of fuel, said the state electricity company Electricite du Liban, with people rushing to find alternative sources of energy in anticipation of such a blackout. 

People have also been looking for space on the roof of their building to install solar panels, said one electrical engineer.

They wanted the least amount of energy in order to keep food in the fridge, and their lights, internet and television on.

“In the last three months, the demand for installing solar energy or installing UPS batteries has increased to the point that this equipment disappeared from the Lebanese market and reservations for obtaining them took a month,” electrical engineer Bilal Rahm told Arab News. “Most of those who want to install solar energy are either rich or have children abroad who provide them with fresh money, and some poor people borrow money to get this solar energy. Everyone needs lighting, especially those who have children in schools and universities. One of my customers is a greengrocer who decided to turn to solar energy.

“Sometimes the residents of the building disagree about using the roof for personal benefit, so they ask us to dismantle these panels, but these disputes began to subside because everyone felt that they needed this method and residents agreed to build an iron top on the roof of the building to install solar panels on it. Merchants are taking advantage of this demand and have raised the prices of imported equipment under the pretext of the high cost of air freight.”

Merchants were importing the equipment from different countries, including China, Germany, England and the UAE, he said.

Dealers of electrical appliances, including Marwan Tabbara, described the demand for UPS devices as “frightening” with the onset of winter. People were looking for an alternative to subscribing to a private generator, where the bill was twice the minimum wage.

The Interior Ministry warned people a few days ago to verify “the durability” of solar energy equipment on the rooftops of buildings before the onset of winter and storms that may cause them to fall and “cause ominous damage” to people and property.

The country’s electricity network was completely disconnected after the Al-Zahrani and Deir Ammar power plants stopped as a result of a drop in energy production to below 200 megawatts.

A source at the Energy Ministry said that all was being done “to find a way out” of the problem, while EDL said it was trying to “conduct maneuvers to manually rebuild the public network in the absence of the National Control Center, which was completely damaged due to the Beirut Port explosion.”

The Deir Ammar power plant, located in the north of the country, was closed on Friday due to the lack of diesel.

Al-Zahrani, located in the south of the country, switched off on Saturday afternoon. 

The production capacity of Zouk and Jiyeh power plants — which currently stands at 350 megawatts — decreased to less than 250 megawatts, which led to the disconnection of the network.

Diana Qaisi, executive director of the Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative and an expert in energy affairs, said: “The disconnection of the network was expected because the Zouk and Jiyeh plants were not subject to real maintenance and there are no maintenance credits. We still have private generators in Lebanon. Are they enough to cover the needs of the Lebanese? Certainly not. They cannot do the job of power plants, and then there is the need for diesel.

“What we were warning of has happened. We said, carry out the required reforms, but all the state is doing is patching, and that is why we have been plunged into darkness. Our warnings were not taken seriously, and no one believed that darkness was coming.”

The next problem, she added, would be securing diesel for generators. Importers needed US dollars and securing this currency from the black market meant raising prices due to the high demand for dollars that were not available in the first place, she explained. 

Lebanon has been experiencing a months-long energy crisis, even as it suffers from economic and financial difficulties.

Rationing of state electricity reached 23 hours a day, with private generators also rationing power.


Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return

Updated 28 September 2022

Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return

  • Kuwait has held 18 elections since the parliamentary system was adopted in 1962
  • Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait will hold its most inclusive elections in a decade Thursday with some opposition groups ending a boycott after the oil-rich country’s royal rulers pledged not to interfere with parliament.
The polls are the sixth in 10 years, reflecting the repeated political crises that have gripped the only Gulf Arab state with a fully elected parliament.
The elections come after Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of parliament in June following disputes between lawmakers and the government, the fourth to be named in two years.
Several opposition MPs had been on strike in protest at delays to parliamentary sessions and the failure to form a new government. A core source of friction is MPs’ demand for ministers from the royal family to be held accountable for corruption.
Kuwait, which borders Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran and is one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, has held 18 elections since the parliamentary system was adopted in 1962.
But when he dissolved parliament, Sheikh Meshal promised there would be no interference by authorities in the election or the new parliament.
“We will not interfere in the people’s choices for their representatives, nor will we interfere with the choices of the next National Assembly in choosing its speaker or its committees,” the crown prince said.
“Parliament will be the master of its decisions, and we will not be supporting one faction at the expense of another. We will stand at the same distance from everyone.”
Opposition figures have stayed out of elections over the past 10 years, accusing executive authorities of meddling in the workings of parliament.
One of them, People’s Action Movement candidate Mohammad Musaed Al-Dossari, said he had been persuaded to stand again by the crown prince’s promises.
Sheikh Meshal’s speech “reassured” Kuwaitis and “encouraged the political groups and MPs who had been boycotting to return to run in the elections,” Al-Dossari said.
Thursday’s vote also comes after the country’s emir issued an amnesty last year for political opponents who had been tried on various charges.
Some 305 candidates, including 22 women, are competing for 50 seats in five constituencies. Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020.
Women represent 51.2 percent of the 795,920 voters. About 70 percent of the population of around 4.2 million is made up of expatriates.
While the last elections were affected by anti-coronavirus measures, this time candidates have been able to open electoral offices and hold live hustings. Security services have stepped up their monitoring of vote-buying.
The election results are expected to be announced on Friday. The opposition, mostly Islamist politicians, won 24 seats out of 50 in the last polls.

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Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone

Updated 28 September 2022

Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone

  • Al-Sadr’s bloc won the most votes in parliamentary elections last October but he has been unable to form a majority government

BAGHDAD: Supporters of Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr again stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone government area Wednesday as the Iraqi parliament holds session on the resignation of its speaker.
Associated Press journalists saw those supporting Sadr waving flags as security forces gathered around them.
Al-Sadr’s bloc won the most votes in parliamentary elections last October but he has been unable to form a majority government. His followers stormed the parliament in late July to prevent their rivals from Iran-backed Shiite groups from forming the government.
With ensuing rallies, clashes with security forces, counter-rallies and a sit-in outside parliament, the government formation process has stalled.
Al-Sadr has now been calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections and has been in a power struggle with his Iran-backed rivals since the vote.


Two dead in Iran strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan: Iran Kurd rebels

Updated 40 min ago

Two dead in Iran strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan: Iran Kurd rebels

  • Iranian artillery fire has hit border districts of Iraqi Kurdistan on several occasions in recent days

IRBIL, Iraq: Two people were killed in Iranian cross-border strikes Wednesday against military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan belonging to the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, the KDPI said.
“The forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran attacked the bases and headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran with missiles and drones” in Koysinjaq, east of Irbil, the KDPI, which operates rear bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, announced in a statement.
“Two people have been killed, while several peshmergas have been wounded,” it added, referring to fighters.
Iranian artillery fire has hit border districts of Iraqi Kurdistan on several occasions in recent days.
The fire comes amid tensions generated by the death in Iranian morality police custody of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini earlier this month after she was arrested in Tehran for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing.
Protests have swept Iran, prompting a domestic crackdown that has killed at least 76 people, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency has put the protest toll at “around 60,” inclusive of several members of the Iranian security forces.
Kurdish communities in western Iran share strong connections with Kurdish-inhabited areas of Iraq.
Many cross the border into Iraq to find work, due to a biting economic crisis in Iran driven in large part by US sanctions.


At least 4 killed in Israeli raid in West Bank

Updated 48 min 53 sec ago

At least 4 killed in Israeli raid in West Bank

  • The Israeli army confirmed in a tweet that troops were “operating in Jenin”
  • The raids have sparked clashes that have killed dozens of Palestinians, including fighters

JENIN: An Israeli raid targeting alleged militants in a West Bank flashpoint killed four Palestinians Wednesday, including the brother of a man blamed for a deadly attack in Tel Aviv.
The violence was the latest to hit Jenin, in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, an area that has seen near daily clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen since an escalation that began in March.
The Palestinian health ministry recorded four dead and 44 wounded by live fire in the latest Israeli operation.
Among them was Abed Hazem, whose brother Raad was named as the killer of three Israelis in a shooting spree in Tel Aviv’s busy nightlife district in April.
Raad Hazem was shot dead after a massive Israeli manhunt. Israeli forces have been pursuing Abed and Raad’s father Fathi for months.
The army only immediately confirmed two deaths during an operation it said targeted “two suspects involved in a number of recent shooting attacks.”
“While surrounding the residence in which both suspects were located, an explosive device detonated and the suspects opened fire toward the security forces. The security forces fired back according to standard operating procedures and the two suspects were both killed,” the army statement said, confirming Hazem as one of the men killed.
Since March, Israel has launched hundreds of operations in the northern West Bank, including in Jenin and nearby Nablus, in pursuit of alleged militants.
The raids have sparked clashes that have killed dozens of Palestinians, including fighters.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967 but parts of the territory are nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority, in accordance with terms set out in the 1994 Oslo peace accords.
Analysts have warned that the dramatic rise in Israeli West Bank raids is further weakening the unpopular Palestinian Authority, with Palestinians increasingly condemning president Mahmud Abbas’s administration for its security cooperation with Israel.
Following the latest Jenin unrest, Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, accused Israel of “tampering with security and stability through pursuing a policy of escalation,” in a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.
Israel has demanded that the PA security forces do more to crack down on alleged militants, and Prime Minister Yair Lapid vowed earlier this month that he would “not hesitate to act in any place that the Palestinian Authority does not maintain order.”
Israel is on high alert over the Jewish holidays, which began Sunday with New Year, or Rosh Hashana, and continue Tuesday with Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar.


Iranians outraged after TikToker shot dead in protests

Updated 28 September 2022

Iranians outraged after TikToker shot dead in protests

  • Funeral held for Hadis Najafi, young Iranian woman who was shot dead by security forces during protests near Tehran
  • Najafi was shot six times in the city of Karaj, and was hit by bullets in the face and neck, according to report by Radio Farda

DUBAI: A funeral has been held for Hadis Najafi, a young Iranian woman who was shot dead by security forces during protests near Tehran.

Najafi was shot six times in the city of Karaj, and was hit by bullets in the face and neck, according to a report by Radio Farda.

Videos of Najafi's funeral has been circulated on social media as online users paid tribute to the 20-year-old.

She had earlier gone viral in a TikTok video where she was seen tying her hair and preparing to join the anti-government protests, which were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the ‘morality police’ for breaching the strict Hijab rules.

At least 41 people have been killed as Iran continues to crack down on the nationwide demonstrations.