As Lebanon's economy has developed over the years, its energy demand has generally increased by 6 percent to 8 percent a year. Over the last two years, however, it has increased at a far greater rate, and with good reason: hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled across the border into Lebanon in order to escape the war in their own country.
The influx have has left the Lebanese national electrical grid unable to meet current demand, especially during the peak summer period.
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The problem has led the Lebanese government to sign a three-year, $370 million deal with the Turkish energy company Karadeniz Holding for the lease of its giant, hulking "power ship." Moored just off the coast of Beirut, the Fatmagul Sultan dominates the harbor with its 11 towering chimney stacks, making it look like a floating power station. Burning heavy fuel oil, the ship supplies 188 megawatts of electricity a day directly to Lebanon's national grid, enough to provide the whole country with an extra two hours of electricity each day, which goes a long way to avoiding the power cuts that have plagued the country recently. The total power generated will rise to 270 megawatts a day in June when a second ship arrives.
Kamal Hayek, the general manager of Lebanese power agency Electricite du Liban, said that "the arrival of the ships will ease the summer brunt when the power demand will reach 3,000 megawatts."
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Gebran Bassil, Lebanon's energy minister, said that "the power ships do not represent an ultimate solution to the electricity problem, but a three-year temporary solution to allow the rehabilitation of existing, conventional power plants at Jiyeh and Zouk."
The power ships, seven in total, are part of a project that Karadeniz launched in 2007 to help developing countries avoid electricity shortages while their demand rapidly expands. Due to the success of the scheme, another five ships are in construction.