Marhaba wa meseh al-kheer. Good evening your Excellencies Minister of Energy Fayyad, Minister of Environment Yassin, and Minister of Industry Bouchikian; Berytech Chairman and CEO, Maroun Chammas; General Manager of IM Capital, Dr. Nicolas Rouhana; TIF Chief of Party, Mark Rostal; and all of you distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen. It is my great pleasure, I am really delighted to be with you today for this launch of the Solar & Renewable Energy Fund. This initiative, managed by USAID, is the first of its kind in Lebanon.
And this is not the U.S. Government’s first response to Lebanon’s energy crisis, nor will it be our last. Since 2012, the U.S. Government, through USAID, has been providing affordable and renewable back-up electricity to homes and businesses. In fact, we recently launched the $30 million dollar INARA project — yes, we love INARA — to provide a reliable and safe renewable electricity. USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced 22 new renewable energy projects across Lebanon during her visit here last November.
I don’t need to tell you this. We all know, Lebanese businesses are struggling in this current economic crisis. They have limited access to financing and their capital accounts, like those of all depositors, are trapped in Lebanese banks. For years, Lebanese enterprises relied on unsustainable and costly energy sources harmful to the environment. Dependence on diesel-powered electrical generators (mazoot) and intermittent government delivery of power has been taking a toll on finances, productivity, and competitiveness.
To offset high energy costs, the U.S. government, through USAID, put together this $20 million Solar & Renewable Energy Fund to finance the purchase and installation of solar systems, primarily solar. The fund will lend capital to enterprises at commercial rates, anticipating that the loans will be repaid within two to three years. This will come from savings on reduced reliance on diesel generators. Who wants to put the diesel mafia out of business? Can we do this? Yes?
USAID has contributed $4 million in seed capital to the Solar & Renewable Energy Fund, and we are working to secure an additional $16 million from private investors and other donors. I am thrilled that we have some of those potential other donors here with us tonight as well. I urge all of the investors who are present here today to consider investing in the Solar & Renewable Energy Fund to sustain Lebanese enterprises while earning commercial returns on your investment. Sounds like a win-win deal to me. Through your investments and USAID’s expertise, we can help local businesses reduce operating costs to sustain their operations and their employment levels.
This fund will support the purchase and installation of solar generation systems for at least 25 businesses. We expect that these businesses will cut their operating costs by at least 20 percent, reducing their expenditures on electricity, and thereby boosting productivity and protecting Lebanese jobs.
We are confident that Lebanese businesses and investors will seize this opportunity to capitalize on the Solar & Renewable Energy Fund to support Lebanon’s economy, support the viability of Lebanese businesses, and protect Lebanese jobs. Together, we can build a cleaner, more productive tomorrow.