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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 6 - Crisis-Striken Public Services

Power and Energy: Dependency on Hydrocarbon, Pollution and Shortage

Éric Verdeil

Texte intégral

1Waiting for the beginning of the exploitation of the potential oil and mostly gas deposits in its exclusive economic zone, Lebanon remains heavily dependent on imported hydrocarbons, which account for 95% of its primary energy. Its potential renewable energy production is limited and under-exploited, including hydroelectricity and, despite its recent rise, solar energy. The exploitation of wind energy is still in the planning phase. A constant and strong increase in consumption, which generates high levels of pollution, has heightened this dependency. The electricity shortage constitutes a major and recurrent issue.

Increasing uses

Figure VI-16: Energy consumption in Lebanon, sources and uses in 2013

Figure VI-16: Energy consumption in Lebanon, sources and uses in 2013

2In 2013, 96% of the energy consumed in Lebanon was imported, mostly in the form of oil products, and secondarily coal and electricity. This energy is exploited in two ways: on the one hand, as fuel, mainly for transport and, to a lesser extent, for domestic heating; on the other hand, it is turned into electricity, either by the public utility in charge of thermal power plants, or by private generators which are poorly identified in the statistics (38% of the installed capacity in 2006 according to the World Bank). One may notice the importance of this on the above graph with the segment drawn between the oil products and housing, which partly corresponds to this private alternative electricity production.

3The annual variations in consumption may have been irregular and partly linked to the geopolitical context (consequences of the 2006 war against Israel) but the increase in demand reflects the population growth due to the inflow of refugees as well as an increase in uses (mobility, electric appliances, etc.) despite a low economic growth.

Figure VI-17: Evolution of the main uses of energy 2005–2012

Figure VI-17: Evolution of the main uses of energy 2005–2012

An automobile-dependent society

4On average, transport systems account for 43% of energy consumption. Used in 80% of the movements in Lebanon, cars dominate especially since the offer in public transportation is poorly organized. Trains have been abandoned since the beginning of the 1990s. Even though the idea of a regional train connection between Beirut and Tripoli regularly resurfaced, railways have gradually been asphalted for road traffic or, on the opposite, undermined by coastal erosion. Collective taxis and minibuses, often attached to the informal sector and offering chaotic and quite expensive conditions, provide most of the public transportation.

5The public authorities have not been promoting the development of public transportation. On the contrary, in recent years, they have encouraged the purchase of cars through consumer credit, which has led to an unprecedented rise in imports. On average, the latter have more than doubled between the 1997–2007 period and the following years, with a peak equal to 100,000 vehicles per year in 2009. Even if we are not well equipped to calculate the number of vehicles which have been withdrawn from the market, these figures remain considerable: a new car for five inhabitants who were old enough to drive between 2008 and 2014. These imports were mostly composed of small vehicles produced by Asian brands, less expensive than the powerful ones, which the Lebanese market is still fond of. This illustrates the growing spread of car ownership among the middle and working classes.

Figure VI-18: Evolution of the number of imported vehicles in Lebanon 1997–2013

Figure VI-18: Evolution of the number of imported vehicles in Lebanon 1997–2013

6The rise of the automobile has also been supported by programs targeting the road infrastructure. As massive imports fueled congestion, the authorities reacted by concentrating public investment in the improvement of the transport network, with the construction of a freeway network to the North and the South of the country. The Bekaa Valley still remains neglected. Despite the construction of bridges and tunnels at the main crossroads, traffic jams still paralyze the major roads of Beirut during rush hours, which forces commuters to longer and tiresome trips while parking has become extremely difficult. A high level of pollution is another consequence of the increased car use . The distribution of the NOx and CO gas in the urban area of Beirut exceeds international sanitary levels. It is distinctly correlated with the location of the major roads and highways—even though electricity production, both private and public, also contributes to it.

Figure VI-19: Air pollution in Beirut in 2010

Figure VI-19: Air pollution in Beirut in 2010

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VI-16: Energy consumption in Lebanon, sources and uses in 2013
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13294/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 40k
Titre Figure VI-17: Evolution of the main uses of energy 2005–2012
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13294/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 24k
Titre Figure VI-18: Evolution of the number of imported vehicles in Lebanon 1997–2013
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13294/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 25k
Titre Figure VI-19: Air pollution in Beirut in 2010
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13294/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 96k

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