Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star
SIDON, Lebanon: An unprecedented fall in oil prices, and resultant decrease in the cost of diesel, has not translated into lower rates on private electricity generator subscriptions in Sidon and its outskirts. Citizens have cried foul and turned to the city’s politicians, demanding that they remedy the issue. Residents across Lebanon usually pay two electricity bills: their state electricity bill and a subscription for service from a private generator owner. Energy bills place a heavy burden on the shoulders of the poor. Despite constant electricity rationing and power outages, citizens are obliged to pay exorbitant fees for state electricity.
Sidon MP Bahia Hariri is working toward a solution in coordination with South Lebanon Governor Mansour Daou and Sidon Mayor Mohammad Saudi. Mohammad Sayyed, a municipal council member and engineer, and Ziad Hakawati, head of the engineering division at the municipality, have been tasked with reaching out to private-generator owners, requesting that they lower their fees in line with falling fuel prices.
Sources confirmed to The Daily Star that a preliminary agreement has been reached between the municipality and private-generator owners. For every 5 amperes of electricity, LL10,000 will be added to customers’ bills, provided the total is below LL100,000. Yet not all private generator owners are abiding by the agreement. Some charge additional fees on top of the provision, ranging from LL80,000 to LL100,000. Some are charging as much as LL105,000 for the 5 amperes. As a result, residents of Sidon have seen only a modest decrease in prices.
The Economy Ministry has also set prices for generator fees, but Saudi said the municipality would use its own pricing scheme, as power cuts in Sidon occur with greater than average frequency. This means residents pay more for their generator electricity than most other Lebanese.
Some generator owners have agreed to cooperate with the municipality and abide by the pricing scheme, but others have not. The municipality has threatened to suspend transgressors and hand over their business to compliant owners.
The municipality is also considering installing meters to measure the electricity supplied by generators. Meters could allow better monitoring and fairer prices, but their implementation is still being deliberated.
The mayor also asked citizens to report generator owners who are not complying with the new pricing. They can do so at the Economy and Commerce Department of the South or go to Sidon’s serail in person, with their receipt, and report the issue.