How Sustainable is Your Oasis?: A Review of Water Resources in Middle East Cities

Karim Elgendy

Liwa Date Farm, UAE. Copyrights: Google

Liwa date farms benefit from some of the freshest ground water in the UAE. Copyrights: Google

Those who visit the Middle East and North Africa from more temperate climates are often struck with how hot and dry the region is, and how scarce its rainfall. Some wonder why cities became established here, and how they continue to exist despite the lack of renewable freshwater.

These concerns are not entirely groundless. Yet these cities’ existence is not in any way miraculous: it’s merely an example of what can happen if cities fail to strike a sustainable balance between growth and limited resources.

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Carbon Footprint of Electricity in the Middle East

Guy El Khoury

Despite the increasing global interest in renewable energy sources, electricity generation remains largely dependent on fossil fuels with approximately 70% of the world’s electricity currently being generated using coal, natural gas, and petroleum products. Coal, the most carbon intensive of the fossil fuels, accounts for the largest share of electricity generated globally, with 40% of all electricity generated.

Such reliance on fossil fuels is coupled with a relatively low conversion efficiency from fossil fuels to electricity, which averages 35%. The remaining 65% of the energy contained in fuels used is in effect wasted, lost as heat in power plant turbines and generators.

In this context, it is not surprising to learn that electricity generation stands as the top contributor to global Carbon emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), electricity generation currently accounts for approximately 50% of global carbon emissions.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, electricity and heat production are responsible for 41% of total carbon emissions according to IEA data from 2009. And while not representing a consumption sector, electricity generation ranked well higher than any individual sector, including transportation, which comes second and accounts for 25% of the region’s total carbon emissions.  Yet carbon emissions from electricity generation is not equal across the region. In fact, the top 5 contributors to carbon emissions from electricity generation – namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Kuwait, and Iraq – together represent 70% of the region’s electricity generation carbon emissions, according to 2009 data by the IEA, a share that represents approximately 30% of the region’s total carbon emissions.

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A Visual Guide to Energy Use in Buildings in the Middle East

Karim Elgendy

In celebrating this year’s World Green Building Week, Carboun has released a visual guide to energy use in buildings with the goal of explaining the overall state of energy use in the region and the significance of buildings as a major sector in energy consumption. It also aims to comparatively explain the nuances of the major trends of energy use in buildings as a baseline analysis for further research.  The visual guide, which was researched and designed by Karim Elgendy with additional contributions from a small research team, was based on raw data obtained from the International Energy Agency and the World Bank. Copyrights for all infographics are reserved for Carboun. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof is permitted without prior written consent from the author.

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Institutional and Legal Challenges to 24/7 electricity in Lebanon

Marie Tyl

The institutional and legal setups of the Lebanese power sector define the decision making mechanisms, and identify the role of different stakeholders from the national electric utility, Electricite du Liban (EDL), to the Council of Ministers. In their current form, such laws and regulations do not grant EDL the tools and capabilities that would enable it to operate at the required standards and  deliver reliable 24/7 electricity. Nor do they entice the utility to optimize its performance. Most importantly, the current setup largely exposes the power sector to political influence and their short-sighted calculations, which leads to the inefficient management of human resources, among other adverse results. Continue reading Institutional and Legal Challenges to 24/7 electricity in Lebanon

Technical Challenges to 24/7 electricity in Lebanon

Marc Ziade

As Lebanon’s economy recovered from the Civil War, demand grew substantially and surpassed additional capacity of the current electricity generation levels. Power shortages progressively became the norm with some regions barely receiving 12 hours of electricity supply on some days.

The technical challenges that prevent sufficient volumes of electricity from getting reliably delivered to end-users span across the entire power system value chain: from insufficient capacity to large losses in the transmission and distribution networks. Continue reading Technical Challenges to 24/7 electricity in Lebanon

Subsidizing Electricity in Lebanon

Marie Tyl

“Electricity is the mother of all problems in Lebanon … the size of the problem is beginning to pose a danger to public finances” – M. Chatah, Lebanese former Finance Minister.

Electricite du Liban (EDL), the state’s electric utility, operates seven thermal plants fueled by gasoil, fuel oil, and natural gas. It also runs six hydro-electric power plants. The national utility enjoys a quasi-monopoly over the power sector in Lebanon. However, for reasons ranging from inefficient operation and management to a freeze-of-tariffs government policy, the electricity company has to rely on significant subsidies from the Ministry of Finance to cover its deficit. During 2011, for example, approximately USD 1.57 billion were transferred from the state treasury to EDL, 93% of which was allocated to purchase oil. This subsidy constitutes one fifth of total public expenses, and according to a 2009 social impact analysis by the World Bank “is putting macroeconomic stability at risk”.

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The Power Sector in Lebanon

Guy El Khoury

From Electricity Concessions to National Grid

1885 is generally considered as the birth year of the electricity network in Lebanon. It is the year where the first concession for a network of gas lighting was established in Beirut when the city was still under Ottoman rule. Over the following decades, the development of the electricity infrastructure across the country was carried out by similar independent regional concessions.

Although the electricity network progressively expanded to cover major cities of the country, this scheme of infrastructure development failed to benefit all citizens and regions equally. Industrial development for example was only concentrated in areas where concessions provided reliable supply (Beirut suburbs and Chekka in the North).

It is only in the early 1960s that the improvement of access to electricity became a government priority. In fact, electrification was a key pillar of nation-building efforts spearheaded by president Fouad Chehab (1958 – 1964), who saw extending the electricity network to the entire Lebanese territory and unifying tariff schemes across the country as a guarantee for reliable and equal access to electricity for all citizens.

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