Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Talk of the town
ra7it el kahraba, halla2 bidawir el moteur, taffé el berrad
The main source of power is the government's (Electricité du Liban), and the private sector also has its share, distributing electricity from privately owned generators, usually divided by area.
Usually we subscribe to more power from the government, people usually receive 15 Amps and more, while we subscribe to much less from the privately owned generators, because they're more expensive, for example 5 Amps (this is our case, we pay up to 75$ per month for 5 Amps, while for the government it reaches 20$ and a bit more). And as we have what is called "ti2nin", which means that the government does not provide power 24/7, because they do not have enough fuel for the whole country, they have to divide the hours and rotate (one day you have government electricity in the morning, one day it's in the afternoon), and on average we get 12 hours of government power per day, and the rest from the private generators.
But the 12 hours are not given straight, they are divided into 3 sections usually, so when the transition has to take place from government to private, meaning less Amps are now available for the household to sustain from, so a lot of appliances need to be unplugged and turned off. Thus, the sentence that I began this post with, roughly translated into:
"The main power is out, the private generator will be on soon, unplug the fridge (so that the disjuncture doesn't fail)"
God forbid the disjuncture fails (in Lebanese we say "déjanteur" which is something completely different, nevertheless a widely used word), because we'll have to go down two floors (in our case), walk all the way till the end of the hall, go in the "electricity room" and turn on the disjuncture again!
Why is the sentence I started this post with very important? Because, you hear it in every household usually at 6pm! Another funny sentence that we heard a lot this summer is:
"Sorry for the heat, but I cannot turn on the AC because the power is the private generator's one and not the government's, or else the disjuncture will fail"
Or another: "It's 5:55pm, let's wait for another 5 minutes then the government's power will come, and we'll be able to use the elevator!"
And the funniest: "What time is it? 5:59pm? We have one minute for the elevator before the power goes out!"
Genius ideas have erupted though due to this situation, many buildings of course are relatively financially "comfortable" so the elevator stays electrically sustained 24/7 whether government power or private. But some who are "okay" comfortable, use a UPS (a big battery) that functions in the following way: When the power is out, it keeps the elevator moving till it reaches the nearest floor, and then stops. This way, the person in the cabinet doesn't get stuck in the middle of two floors (usually there is a wall), and they'd have to manually move the elevator cabinet down, or the person will have to jump out of it.
Unfortunate and sad accidents have resulted from the jumping out of the elevators, I've heard of such things that even happened in our recent times. They jump from the elevator cabinet, but their foot slips and they end up falling inside the elevator for several floors and die.
Public or private power, there is a life or death matter to be aware of. For example, last week, while driving, I stopped at the traffic lights, and I was waiting for the green to come on so I can go to the left. Suddenly, the power went out! Now what to do?
There has been talks about receiving up to 200 Mega Watts from Egypt, but they will have to go through Jordan and Syria, who might as well use some of these sources. The problem in Lebanon is that 200 Mega Watts are not enough, we need up to 1500 Mega Watts per year, the EDL (Electricité du Liban), is not even providing half of them. Some suggest the privatization of the power in Lebanon, instead of paying these small private generator owner, there will be a fixed number of big power generating private companies in Lebanon who sustain regions in Lebanon with power, taking a big load off of the government’s, following a fixed pricing and not like the extremely variable and uncontrolled one we have today from the small providers (75$ per month for 5 Amps?!!).
Unfortunately, in Lebanon, such a thing is far from happening, because public companies are “ma7soubiyet” and “wasayit” which is sort of connections and favors from one person to another. Who would want to lose control over something that gives them more control and money?
Having electricity in Lebanon, more like, not having it, is something we all learned to live with and continue to. It is part of our life. We do not panic when there is a power failure, we just unplug the fridge.