Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wind Energy in Lebanon: A Win, Win, Win Proposition

At a time when the price per barrel of oil is over $130 and many believe will reach $150 in the next few months it is bewildering when electricity in Lebanon is still being produced from fuel oil. Besides the question of the large increase in the price of oil as a feed stock there is also the more important issue of the carbon footprint that is associated with the consumption of hydrocarbons.
Climate Change is a problem for all of us since nature does not recognize the artificial political boundaries that we have created neither does it care about our race, gender or national origin. Actually a change in climate will bring about devastating effects for all forms of life and not only Homo sapiens. So when we choose not to take action that will reduce the detrimental effect of our economic activities then we are acting irresponsibly and condemning not only ourselves but all species all over the world.
Fortunately for us in Lebanon we are in a position to take meaningful action that will go a long way in reducing out ecological footprint in general and our carbon footprint in particular. Besides promoting the obvious policies that would encourage public transport, the greater use of efficient autos, and efficient use of electricity Lebanon is blessed in being located in a geographic region that provides around 300 days a year of sunshine and a relatively long coast line relative to the size of the country. Lebanon is abundantly endowed with the most efficient two clean energy alternatives: wind and solar.
In the solar field we need to pass legislation that mandates the installation of solar hot water heat systems into all new building structures and we also need to encourage retro fitting the existing physical stock of buildings. Obviously we should also keep an eye on the rapid developments in thermal energy. This area is the most promising in the field of renewable and many new plants are expected to start large scale production of electricity all over the globe. Eventually this source of clean and inexpensive electricity could become a major source of energy for Lebanon.
But there is no need to wait for the new technological breakthroughs in thermal energy. We can and we must plan to have at least 20-25% of our electricity produced from wind turbines of f shore. Lebanon’s total production of electricity is around 1500 MW annually. To produce 300 MW from wind farms is a very realistic goal and what makes it exceptionally attractive is the fact that the final product would be clean and inexpensive energy. Wind energy is currently being produced at a cost of around 4 cents per kWh and Lebanon should have no problem in securing financing for such projects at attractive terms. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the world Bank in addition to the German Development Finance Group (KfW), the US Agency for International Development (US AID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDCA) plus the European Union are just a few of the International organizations that are committed to help developing nations finance alternative energy projects.
The cabinet in Lebanon has spent enough time in unproductive political grid lock over the past three years. It is high time that the cabinet take the initiative to undertake a project that will improve the quality of life of the average Lebanese citizen, a project that is self financing, that will provide the Lebanese economy with a boost and that will meet part of our moral obligation toward sustainable development. Wind generated electricity in Lebanon is the best of all possible worlds, a win, win, win proposition with no possible losers.

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