The challenges of Beirut's electricity supply from the civil war to the post-reconstruction years: division, shortages and autonomisation

Authors: Eric Verdeil*, CERI Sciences Po
Topics: Urban Geography, Energy, Middle East
Keywords: energy, electricity, urban infrastructure, urban inequalities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper presents the case of Beirut's electricity provision from the civil war (1975-90). From internal division during the civil war (1975-1990) and, thereafter, a continued geographically uneven shortage of supply, the lens of electric supply reveals a shifting geography of power in the country. The civil war witnessed the emergence of powerful militias, strongly entrenched in sectarian and political territories. However, they never totally dislodged and replaced governmental organizations, including the state-owned electric utility, which always remained committed to the centralized supply of the divided areas, despite its failure and low performance. Therefore, Beirut’s electrical landscape must be analyzed through shifting alliances and assemblages of political power, of technical and material devices (power plants, stations and substations, air and underground lines), local and foreign expertise, as well as people agency, which resulted in uneven service in space and time. The paper will successively analyze the use of electric supply as a weapon during the war; the legacy of the adaptation to this threat and to the urban divide in the reconstruction period, including the persistence of (semi-)autarky through individual or collective generation; and finally examine if recent moves toward energy efficiency and renewable significantly depart from this inherited landscape or reproduce it.

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