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French Version

EDL receives a $23 million control center

Project aims to cut production costs

State-owned Electricite du Liban (EDL) will be equipped with a $23-million hi-tech center to monitor and control the operation of the whole electricity network, optimize power distribution and reduce production costs.

The Center for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) announced the outsourcing of the execution of the Lebanese Electric Network Control Center to the French energy giant AREVA Transmission & Distribution on Wednesday. CDR said that the project was put on the backburner for at least 11 years.

The importance of the project is that it will reduce costs linked to technical problems by 6 to 8 percent allowing for the EDL to save up to $75 million yearly, according to Mohammad Akkawi, power sector consultant at the CDR.

The project will enable EDL to supervise and to conduct real-time piloting of the whole electrical network reaching the 67 power substations.

Concerning its regional significance, Akkawi said: "The project will lay the needed technological ground for connecting Lebanon's power network with networks of various countries of the region."

Lebanon joined four years ago the regional power gird connecting Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Syria.

The control center, which will be completed by the spring of 2008, will cost $23 million and will be mainly funded through a loan by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.

Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Fneich said political squabbles in Lebanon have regrettably delayed the project and other badly needed reforms in the country's power sector.

"The project should have been executed five years ago," he said, adding that the loan for its execution was granted nine years ago.

Once implemented, the project will be run by EDL.

Regarding the implementation of the 220 kilovolt network, Fneich announced that the line between the northern regions of Bahsas and Halat was completed and once it's operated will feed part of Mount Lebanon with power produced in the Beddawi power plant.

Fadel Shalak, head of the CDR, said the council has a long struggle to make sure that the project finally sees the light.

"Apart from political bickering, the delay was due to conflicts among companies of various nationalities, suggesting that foreign embassies in Lebanon had interfered previously in the bidding process of companies who offered to run the project.

French Ambassador, Bernard Emie, said the project is "an important step even if not sufficient for the modernization of EDL."

Emie urged the government to adopt "courageous reform measures" in order to offer adequate electricity services to national firms, citizens and foreign investors wishing to start activities in Lebanon. He called on all political forces "to scarify their personal interests for those of the public."

France is one of the countries pressing the Lebanese government to carry out serious reforms in the electricity sector and end financial waste.

The Finance Ministry warned that it can no longer afford to finance the losses of EDL, adding that in 2005 the ministry spent close to $1 billion to buy fuel oil.

Since the end of the Civil War, the French electricity company EDF was involved in the restoration of the Lebanese electricity sector.

Explaining about the AREVA group, its vice-president Jean Luc Vieux-Pernon said that the company was number one in terms of nuclear activity in the world and had an annual turnover of 11 billion euros. He added that the company acquired a transmission and distribution branch.

He said that the company established national control centers in many countries like Tunisia, South Africa and Ethiopia. AREVA will also be building a regional control center for all the electrical networks of the Gulf.

Beirut 06-03-2006
The Daily Star

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