The Business Year - Lebanon 2014 magazine features an interview with Rabih Osta, Phoenix Group of Companies Area General Manager, and Ramzi Abusaid, ASACO Managing Director, about the latest trends in renewables, the joint Beirut River Solar Snake project, and the future of solar energy in the country.
Q & A
The Right Gear
Renewables are hot property in Lebanon right now, with a number of companies taking advantage of the increased interest.
What unique products do you offer in the renewables field?
RABIH OSTA We are involved in solar water heaters, and have worked for many years with a company based in the Netherlands that has a unique product. This is the only product actually on the market that is provided with a 20-year warranty from us, and we work hard to promote this product in Lebanon. While our competitors may offer cheaper products, we have looked to deliver quality products able to last for 20 years. Meaning, we took a different strategy in our marketing and it was successful. In 2011, the number of solar water heaters that we sold in Lebanon was a record for our agents and we acquired the company in 2013 and relocated the production line to Lebanon.
RAMZI ABUSAID We were one of the pioneers of the solar segment, before renewable energy was much considered. At that time, solar energy was extremely expensive, and investments largely came from environmental enthusiasm. Yet, while businesses may be environmentally friendly, project feasibility is always key to an investment decision. In the late 1990s, alternative energy was predominantly derived from hydro, wind, and biomass, but progressed markedly when the price of solar electricity generation declined, prompting further investment. In 2006, this segment of the energy matrix had very few local competitors in Lebanon. I recall that back in 2007 or 2008 there were only three companies competing for one UN tender, including us. The others were even involved in the solar-thermal business and this project was the first photo.
What significance does the Beirut River Solar Snake (BRSS) project hold?
RO We recently won the tender for the BRSS, which is the largest photovoltaic project in Lebanon and involves placing solar panels all along the Beirut River. We are working jointly with ASACO and Yingli, which are our partners. Actually, we are at the assembly phase on site. It should be complete by end-2014, when everything should be installed because commissioning is scheduled to finish by the end of February 2015.
RA We won a project some months back, which is also the largest in Lebanon so far, namely the BRSS project. The 1-MW capacity scheme involves lining the Beirut River with solar panels. We won the project, valued at $3.8 million, in a joint venture and consortium with Phoenix Machinery and Dalal Steel.
What potential does solar energy have overall?
RO I think the National Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Action (NEERA) program is a major driver for the renewable energy sector in Lebanon, and without this we would not have been able to work on a project like the BRSS, and we would not been able to install a lot of biomass boilers because people in Lebanon are looking for a quick payback solution.
RA Lebanon is the ideal solar market given the electricity sector production deficit. Blackouts may well be expected for the coming few years. The industry is dependent on private generation, mainly using costly diesel. People are now getting to know the benefits of solar energy.
About Phoenix Group
Phoenix group of companies in Lebanon include Phoenix Machinery and Phoenix Energy. Phoenix headquarters, as well as both companies are located in Safra, Lebanon.
Phoenix Machinery manufactures hygiene and tissue converting machines, and CNC components and machined parts, as well as develops and integrates machinery automation, process automation and power distribution solutions.
Phoenix Energy, Supplier of renewable energy products, such as solar water heaters, wind turbines,biomass boilers, PV Systems, LED Lights Solution and Wooden Frame Houses.