BEIRUT: A Turkish power barge, which arrived in Lebanon almost two weeks ago, has finally set anchor at the Zouk power plant, where it is scheduled to start producing electricity by mid-March to reduce the ongoing blackouts across the country.

One of two barges Lebanon has leased in a $360 million deal with Turkish firm Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretim, Fatmagul Sultan’s arrival is the first step in a multi-prong plan that the energy minister has for providing full power by 2015.

A second barge is scheduled to arrive in June, while repairs to the existing power plants and building an additional plant are in the planning stages.

The two barges will increase the electricity supply enough to reduce rationing by three hours, according to Energy Minister Gebran Bassil. But after numerous delays in addressing the issue of blackouts, which can exceed 12 hours a day in some areas, the question remains whether the barges will significantly improve the situation.

The Daily Star has tracked electricity supply in major cities in an effort to monitor improvement in supply hours.

In central Beirut, electricity supply has remained at 21 hours a day, except for days when there have been major failures at the country’s aging plants. Several months ago, electricity rationing exceeded three hours a day in the capital due to the stoppage of some power plants.

However, Beirut’s southern suburbs suffer from severe power rationing that sometimes exceeds 14 hours a day, and have been reduced to eight hours of power when the power plants malfunction.

Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, has seen steady power at 12 hours a day, the paper’s correspondent said.

In Sidon, electricity supply ranges between 12 and 15 hours, the local correspondent reported.

An Electricite du Liban spokesperson told The Daily Star that the state-run provider was trying to keep rationing hours equal across the country provided that no major technical problem occurs.

In July 2012, the last time EDL published data, electricity supply dwindled to a national average of 11.4 hours a day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 27, 2013, on page 5. –

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