In Beirut “The ‘state’ just turned off!” is a refrain heard with increasing frequency. Though emblematic of wider problems facing Lebanon, this particular cry of frustration does not bemoan the country’s troubled politics or its ongoing presidential vacuum; rather, it is what Lebanese call out to each other from their balconies when the state power supply cuts off. And state power is in particularly short supply these days. Lebanon’s power sector has long suffered from under-investment and disrepair, leaving some parts of the country with less than three hours per day of electricity supplied by state monopoly, Electricité du Liban (EDL). Estimates vary widely regarding actual electricity supply and demand, though one commonly cited estimate suggests that EDL produces about 1,600 MW while demand tops 2,500 MW. Widely understood but infrequently acknowledged is that the demand estimate is a pre-Syrian-civil-war vintage: with 1.2 million refugees now scattered across Lebanon’s 10,452 sq km, actual electricity demand has skyrocketed beyond the pre-war figure.

EDL’s troubles came to a head this week when the entire country’s electricity supply was interrupted due to a “shock…which resulted in the disconnection of all production units from the network and stopped electricity flow to most Lebanese areas,” according to an EDL statement. The utility says that the disruption was exacerbated by a labor crisis at the company’s headquarters in Beirut, where picketing contractors blocked access to maintenance equipment. (CONTINUED - 737 WORDS)