How did EDZ (Electricite de Zahle) manage to provide Zahle residents with 24/7 electricity? How were they able to defeat the generator gangs? Where does the EDL stand from the EDZ initiative? Why can’t we replicate the EDZ model all over Lebanon?
I’ve been asking myself these questions for quite some time and I’m sure a lot of you would love to know how EDZ managed to do the impossible in a country ruled by corruption and incompetence. I’ve always wanted to visit the EDZ factory in Zahle as well and I finally had that opportunity on Saturday. Unfortunately, I got really sick the day before but I made sure to pass my questions to my friend who organized the visit and get all the information and pictures needed (Thank u Jimmy!).
PS: It is worth noting that this was the first time EDZ allowed anyone (Gino & I in that case) to take pictures of the secure facility.
Before I get started, here are 6 things you should know about EDZ:
– EDZ was established in 1927 and is the only company in Lebanon that has a license to produce and distribute electricity.
– EDZ is currently providing 24/7 electricity to over 250,000 inhabitants. Its authority stretches beyond Zahle to include 15 other municipalities.
– EDZ technical and non-technical losses are less than 6% (compared to more than 40% for the EDL).
– Only 15 people in Zahle decided not to subscribe to EDZ (mostly generator owners).
– Collection rate is almost 100% and bills are 30-40% lower than previous ones (with EDL and generators).
– EDZ ensures there’s no water supply shortage in Zahle by providing 24/24 power supply to all water pumping stations.
After listing these 6 key points, here’s how it all started and how Assaad Nakad, the man behind EDZ, pursued his mission/dream and brought 24/7 electricity to Zahle residents.
When was the EDZ founded? What Happened with the EDL?
EDZ, founded in the early twenties, is a private company holding a concession to serve the electrical needs of the region of central Bekaa. In 1969, EDZ undertook not to increase the capacity of its then existing thermal facilities as a result of EDL’s overcapacity of production at the time. EDZ’s production activity was later completely stopped when its power plant was hit during the war. EDL stopped providing Zahle with 24/7 electricity in the late 70s and since EDZ was still not allowed to produce electricity, things got worse after the war was over and generator gangs took over.
It is worth noting that shortages in the region of Zahle started well before all other regions, and they reached at some point 18 hours/day. In terms of numbers, EDL’s delivery stagnated at 200GWh/year whereas fulfilling EDZ customer base demand of 24h/day required an estimated 380GWh/year.
That’s when Nakad decided to step in and fix things at all cost.
Rebuilding the EDZ plant:
Convinced that things will only get worse with the EDL, Nakad decided to take things into his own hands and assigned one of the most experienced and renowned companies worldwide, Aggreko, to rebuild the EDZ plant. UK-based Aggreco is the world’s largest temporary power generation company, and a major supplier of temperature control equipment.
EDZ signed a 2 years lease agreement with Aggreco whereas EDZ provides the diesel oil, land, site civil works preparation and site security while Aggreco provides the supply and installation of all generators, transformers, cables, medium and low voltage switchgears, medium voltage etc …
The plant is ultra-modern, ultra-safe and almost cleaner than a food factory. It currently consists of 60 diesel oil running generators, 15 step-up transformers, 26 daily fuel tanks of 20,000 liters each, two medium voltage main incoming switch-gears, two medium voltage distribution switch-gears, one main fuel tank with a capacity of 400,000 liters, security rooms and storage area.
As of March 2015, EDZ was providing 24/7 electricity to Zahle residents.
Who’s benefiting from EDZ now? And Who Isn’t?
– All people subject to EDZ distribution benefit from 24/7 electricity, stable voltage and frequency and continuous service and power supply.
– Aside from Zahle, there are 15 other municipalities covered by EDZ (Ka3 el Rim, Ferzol, Saadnayel, Bar Elias etc ..)
– Street lighting is on EVERY night to make people feel safer.
– There’s no water supply shortage anymore since EDZ provides 24/24 power to all pumping stations.
– Having a cheaper 24/7 electricity also helps local businesses run at a lower cost.
– All EDZ customers are paying 35% less than what they used to pay before.
So who’s not happy with the current situation?
– EDZ faced hard times during the launching of the new power plant as generator owners demonstrated against them and even shot at transformers and damaged a couple of them.
– The big majority of bills protesters and unhappy customers happens to be the old generators owners.
What EDZ has achieved is a dream come true for every Lebanese. We are still very very far from achieving 24/7 electricity in all of Lebanon and it is very hard to replicate the EDZ model elsewhere as no one has a license to produce and distribute. The ideal solution would be to allow companies like EDZ to offer its services elsewhere and built similar plants for major cities around Lebanon but things are easier said than done, especially with politics involved and with every party wanting his share of the deal.
On another note, EDZ contract ends in 2018 so we will have to wait and see if its license gets renewed. The worst possible thing that could happen is if an incompetent person takes over and ruins everything that the EDZ has achieved, but I am hopeful that Zahle resident won’t allow that.
All in all, EDZ is a clear proof that things will never change unless you fight for them, and that you can achieve things against all odds in this country.