Christian Daily: The Truth About Solar Energy: Debunking Common Myths

Christian Daily: The Truth About Solar Energy: Debunking Common Myths

ME Green Team |

The article from Kristeligt Dagblad discusses how Lebanese citizens are turning to solar energy in search of a reliable electricity supply. However, this is not a sustainable solution to the country's problems.

Solar energy is gaining popularity in Lebanon, not due to environmental concerns, but because of unreliable state electricity supply characterized by long daily power outages and rising fuel prices.

The sun shines brightly in the sky, and on a roof in the Barbour district of Beirut, Lebanon's capital, six large solar panels eagerly absorb its rays. The solar heat is transported via cables to the 4th floor, where an inverter converts it into electricity, which is stored in two batteries.

The solar panel system belongs to 33-year-old Karim Hakim. The panels, installed a year ago, produce enough electricity to meet his needs most of the time. Although he cares about the climate, sustainability was not the deciding factor in his decision.

"It's about comfort – with the solar panels, I always have power," he says while pouring strong Turkish coffee into small cups and offering dates and walnuts on his shady balcony.

Karim Hakim is far from the only Lebanese turning to solar energy for a stable power supply. With 300 sunny days a year, the Mediterranean country is well-suited for this sustainable form of energy, but interest was slow to catch on. Despite the national electric company, EDL, being notorious for its chronically unstable and expensive supply, Lebanese people managed by supplementing with diesel-powered generators.

This changed in 2019 when Lebanon was hit by a severe economic crisis.

First, fuel shortages created long queues at gas stations. Then the government removed subsidies, ending the queues but causing prices to skyrocket: A year ago, 20 liters of gasoline cost 40-45,000 Lebanese pounds (190-200 Danish kroner), while today it's over 600,000 pounds (2840 Danish kroner) – a fifth of the minimum wage.



Karim Hakim, 33, is far from the only Lebanese to have invested in solar panels in search of a stable electricity supply. Recently, he has seen them increasingly appear on neighboring properties' roofs. Photo: Gerd Kieffer-Døssing

The consequence is that people can no longer afford to use their generators. And because EDL's supply is so poor that there's only power for one hour a day in many places, people are simply living without.

The answer for more and more, like Karim Hakim, has been right outside their window.

If you have money, you can get it

In the past few years, Lebanon has experienced a real boom in solar energy. Figures from LCEC – an organization for green energy and water that advises the government in this area – show that the total capacity of installed solar energy in the country grew from just 0.33 megawatts in 2010 to nearly 90 megawatts in 2020.

"For years we've been pushing to promote solar energy, but only a few took the step. Now there's a real need, as people no longer have a reliable power supply," says Reem Irany, project manager at LCEC.

A company that has felt the increasing demand is Me Green, established in Lebanon since 2010. Me Green installs solar systems for both private individuals and companies, and business developer Lara El Khoury speaks of an "explosion" in inquiries. This year, Me Green expects to double its customer base.



"People were looking for a solution – and the sun is free; no one can steal it from us," she says with a gallows humor, referring to the country's corrupt elite, which the World Bank blames for Lebanon's economic quagmire.

Lebanon's power grid is in terrible condition – with many gaps and frequent outages. It's gotten so bad that some places only have power for one hour a day. Photo: Gerd Kieffer-Døssing

But while the sun is free, solar panels are far from it.

Karim Hakim's system cost him around 35,000 kroner. A significant expense in a country whose currency has lost over 90 percent of its value, and whose debt in 2021 was sometimes estimated to be 495 percent of the gross national product.

Several banks are beginning to offer green loans with low interest, but that's not enough, as the price of solar systems has also skyrocketed in the last few years.

This is partly due to high transportation costs from the coronavirus pandemic, and partly the war in Ukraine, which has created a growing demand for sustainable energy in Europe. Overall, prices have risen by up to 70 percent in three years, estimates Lara El Khoury.

There's a need for a national policy

The boom in solar energy also brings problems.

Both Lara El Khoury and Reem Irany from LCEC report that the industry is plagued by unprofessional companies that have smelled quick profits and are installing low-quality products with short lifespans that can be life-threatening, as batteries can catch fire.

And the growing interest in solar panels among private Lebanese is not sustainable in the long run. As Marc Ayoub, coordinator for the Energy and Security Program at the American University of Beirut, told Lebanese L’Orient Today:

"Solar energy is a long-term solution and should not be installed in the chaotic way it's being done now in people's homes (...) Instead of each household installing private solar panels, the country should have a national policy to try to deliver a large number of kilowatts to larger areas."

That the state should take responsibility makes sense, but it will require more than a political decision.

EDL's network is unstable, full of holes, and shattered after decades of neglect and corruption, and everywhere, worn or broken electrical wires and cables hang like heavy garlands from buildings and poles. Reem Irany admits that a massive capital injection from outside is needed before the national electric company can hope to deliver the goods.

"EDL has the will and technical capacity, but lacks the money," she says.

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