THE PUBLIC STRIKES FIRST

Lebanon 2017 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Cesar Abi Khalil, Minister of Energy & Water, on boosting the percentage of renewables to 12%, implementing an ambitious set of energy-efficiency reforms for 2016-2020, and using public sector buildings as an important pilot for doing so.

Cesar Abi Khalil
BIOGRAPHY
Born in the Aley town of Blaybel in 1971, Cesar Abi Khalil holds a diploma in civil engineering from the Saint Joseph University. A member of the Order of Engineers in Beirut since 1995, he has been an activist in the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) since 1989. President of the student body at the Faculty of Engineering for the FPM in 1993 and 1994, he has been a member of the FPM’s corps of engineers since its foundation in 2009. He is currently the Minister of Energy & Water.

What are the main highlights in implementing the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) for 2016-2020 thus far?

The first NEEAP for Lebanon was developed for 2011-2015. Lebanon was the first Arab country to have its NEEAP developed, published, and adopted by the national government. In June 2015, the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation (LCEC) organized an evaluation session of the first NEEAP with the wide participation of different stakeholders. Based on this session, several modifications were introduced when structuring the second NEEAP for Lebanon to cover the period 2016-2020. For the latter, work has already been seriously started on four of the main initiatives, which are the building code, the minimum energy performance for home appliances, the labeling of appliances, and the pilot projects of energy efficiency in public building. For the national building code, there is a need to update the current version. Work is being done with several partners to include green buildings specifications within the national construction law. As for the minimum energy performance system (MEPS) and the labeling of home appliances, work is being carried out on several levels through the establishment of a legal and regulatory framework to analyze the different set standards and their adaptation to the Lebanese environment and to identify key appliances to include in the regulatory framework. Finally, public sector buildings are one of the largest consumers of electricity in Lebanon. This is why the NEEAP dedicated a measure for implementing energy-efficiency pilot projects in public sector buildings in order to showcase the sector's potential energy efficiency. At this stage, visits to identify the key buildings are being carried out working at the same time to procure the needed budget and financing.

What is your outlook for alternative energy in Lebanon and the goal of doubling its share to 12% by 2020?

Lebanon announced the goal of achieving 12% renewable energy by 2020 in 2009. This goal is mainly dependent on solar, wind, hydroelectricity, and biomass resources. The Lebanese government has issued the first licenses to produce electricity from the private sector for three wind farms in the Akkar region with a capacity of around 200MW. Moreover, the Ministry of Energy and Water has launched the request for proposals for the deployment of 12 solar farms with a capacity of between 120-180MW all over Lebanese territory. Both these projects are key milestones toward the achievement of the national target in 2020 as well as integrating the private sector into the renewable energy industry.

What are your main goals and priorities for the year ahead?

In 2017, our ministry submitted an additional plan to cover the increasing demand during the summer season that was aggravated by the inflows of the Lebanese diaspora due to the sense of stability that was created by the election of our new president. Demand was already heightened by the continual increase of displaced Syrians. Hence, it was important to prepare a plan to cover this extra demand and increase electricity supply in Lebanon. The plan relies on several pillars, starting with renewable energy projects. The second pillar was the rental of floating power production units with a capacity of 800-1,000MW and tying them to the existing grid in order to quickly boost our generation capabilities. The role of the private sector was mentioned in previous plans of the Ministry of Energy and Water and is still an important part of all our plans. In line with these efforts, we are working on the integration of power plants of 1,000MW through the Independent Power Producers (IPP) modality.