BEIRUT: Owners of the private electricity generators started hiking their prices by more than two to three times this month under the pretext that the rates of the diesel fuel in the market surged dramatically after the Energy Ministry lifted the subsidies on this commodity.

The providers claimed that they have no option but to hike the rates on their customers because they are forced to buy diesel from the black market at exorbitant prices.

Most of these providers have cut their supply to an average of seven to nine hours per day, arguing that the available quantities of diesel are very small.

The average prices of 5 and 10 amps of electricity is expected to reach LL2 million and more than LL4 million respectively even with the severe rationing.

I am informing my customers on WhatsApp that the rates will jump this month so they wont be taken by surprise. The Energy Ministry and the oil importers are selling every ton of diesel at $580 and sometimes even more. If the customers are unable to pay these bills then we are forced to disconnect them. I am really not happy about it but I have no choice, an owner of a private generator told The Daily Star.

He stressed that the rates set by the ministry for every kilowatt consumed by a customer are ridiculous.

They (Energy Ministry) are asking us to charge every kilowatt at LL2,300 but this means that we have to lose money so that the customer buys it at this very low rate. The logical rate for every kilowatt should be at least LL8,000 if not more. I am beginning to hate this line of business because its pure headache, he claimed.

A source at the Energy Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, urged consumers not to be bullied by the owners of the private generators.

The consumers should file a complaint to the Economy Ministry and the municipality to ensure that the rates are in line with the official guideline of the Energy Ministry, she added.

But in reality most citizens are too reluctant to file a complaint as they fear that they will be totally disconnected by their providers.

The price of one ton of diesel was sold at LL5,000 a few months ago at the rate of LL3,900 to the dollar.

But now the providers stress that they are forced to buy diesel from the black market between LL15 million to LL17 million per ton, noting that most suppliers even refuse to sell them at these rates.

Economist Mohammad Chamseddine warned that even if a person has an income of LL5 million to LL7 million he will not be able to make ends meet if the dollar continues to soar and the economy remains stagnant.

We will reach a point where the consumer will put more than half of his salary to continue buying electricity from the providers and the other half to cover the prices of gasoline once the subsidies on fuel are totally lifted at the end of September, he explained.

This crisis coincided with the inability of state owned Electricite du Liban to provide more electricity to the country.

At present, EDL is generating less than 800 MW compared to 2,000 MW a year ago.

The company stressed that as long as the Central Bank refuses to open a new line of credit to buy fuel for the power plants, the company will be obliged to maintain its severe power rationing.

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