A Priority for Electricity
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      Electricity is the corollary of the five-year water plan. 70% of Switzerland’s electricity comes from hydroe- lectric plants. At the 2009 Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change, the Lebanese Government pledged to produce at least 12% of our electricity through renewable resources by 2020. If we were to follow the five-year plan, we would produce more than our target. Based on the Parsons Main’s projections for the Awali/Bisri hydro-electric exploitation set at 138 GWH and multiplying that figure by 15, which is the number of unexploited rivers in Lebanon, we would achieve an added 2070 GWH/year with a total electricity produc- tion of 10,400 GWH. That is an additional 20%. Keep in mind that these figures are approximations as the 15 rivers previously introduced include the production value of the Kadicha and Nahr el Kelb Rivers which, at their present minimal output can, according to the study, easily be boosted.

      These numbers demonstrate the available energy flowing beneath our feet. We need to remain conser- vative in our estimates as we are still at the mercy of a low water season and droughts. Nothing can be achieved under those circumstances, as there is no technology today that can conserve the electric energy produced during the rainy seasons. And though it can rain a lot in winter, Lebanon still has an average of 320 sunny days a year.

      Once again, our mountains rise to the occasion of fe- derating the Nation in an innovative way. High altitude land is uncultivable, yet it offers a beneficial area to build vast solar panel farms capable of generating the renewable energy future generations will need so much. Anyone serious about this matter should read George Friedman’s The Next One Hundred Years, which goes a long way in explaining the even more fundamental role electricity will play in the future. The United States is currently studying giant solar panels floating in geo-synchronous orbit uninterruptedly absorbing the sun’s rays to produce electricity. After that energy is produced, it will be beamed down to earth through fixed receivers. As a result, the US is set to become the first exporter of electric power to the world, a far cry from the old American model so de- pendent on Saudi oil!

      Science-fact aside, most industries and global developments still rely on fossil fuels. Yet as developing countries becomes increasingly industrialized, the reforms kick-started at the Kyoto and Copenhagen Summits to curb carbon dioxide emissions will undoubtedly become more demanding. What we are witnessing today is the tip of the iceberg.

      In re-examining where we are, consider the following: the car industry is undoubtedly heading towards electric-powered vehicles, simply because in three decades, chances are, the world’s fossil fuel reservoirs will be depleted. While in Lebanon today we might not be producing enough electricity to light our roads we should also be thinking of what will power us three decades from now? Will Lebanon regress to using steam engines and horse driven carts? It would be in- teresting to calculate the KW required to fuel today’s cars and use that number to set our 2040 energy goals.

      Another example is the field of robotics, which 50 years from now will pervade our daily life. Will we have enough electricity to power them? If we maintain our present course, chances are we will soon be demoted to a fifth world nation.

      Abu Dhabi, the Arab Emirate that depends so greatly on its fossil fuel reserves has taken matters in its own hands. A few years ago, it built its first experi- mental “sustainable” city using solar energy, as well as applied construction energy saving schemes to recycle its waste and water. The project, believe it or not, was initiated by two experts in renewable energy from Lebanon! Encouraged by the success of their first project, Khaled Awad and Ayad Tosbahgi are currently selling their model to other countries shopping for in- novatively sustainable energy solutions.

      Aware of what is happening throughout the world, it strikes me as unthinkable that the people of this land have not even thought about exploiting solar energy. We suffer from daily power cuts and yet we live in a region which enjoys almost year round sunshine! Is it so inconceivable to imagine that instead of lamenting on the lush green mountains of the past, we start building solar farms to become a self-reliant energy nation?

      We now have the best opportunity to develop this economic idea, considering that solar farms hold the same federative ingredients as the five-year hydroe- lectric plan. Both the technology and expertise are readily available, so what is holding us back? What we speak of is a viable alternative and unless we seize the opportunity to build on that, chances are, we will be left in the dark!

      In an article published by The Financial Times, dated June 9, 2011, the author, Ed Crooks, purported that solar energy will compete with fossil fuel electricity production, free of State subsidies, three years from now. This is made possible thanks to a 60 % drop in the production cost of solar energy in the past five years. Rob Gillette, Solar Energy CEO anticipates an expan- sion of the global market from 65,000 megawatts to 1,700,000 megawatts in the coming years. Solar First, the world’s biggest solar company is already negotia- ting with the State of California, the sale of solar KWh at 10-12 cents, a competitive price to fossil fuels’ Kwh at peak time. Such numbers and projections have got General Electric’s attention, which has now officially announced its interest in solar energy technology research and production. This is a further indicator of the bright future solar energy holds, and one which should be taken into account.

      Though I have no other figures to offer, experts are more than welcome to share their knowledge on our website. What we speak of can have an immediate effect on every single household, which if properly supplied with such technology, can decrease its annual consumption by a staggering 80%! Did the State and municipality experts even consider such an opportunity? Did they learn anything from the legal framework for solar energy adopted by the island of Cyprus? Also, why are new local construction permits not mandating the use of solar panels to power, at least partly, the energy needs of the structures being built? To be frank, such an attitude seems to be as irresponsible as ignorant.


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