GE’s Midhat Mirabi discusses Lebanon's power sector

In an interview with Annahar, Mirabi discussed the latest innovations in the power sector, noting that many are now interested in how to harvest solar and wind energy to produce electricity.
by Fatima Dia

4 December 2019 | 16:20

Source: by Annahar

  • by Fatima Dia
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 4 December 2019 | 16:20

This photo shows Midhat Mirabi. (HO)

BEIRUT: A keen appreciation for the role of energy in the development of countries led Midhat Mirabi to take the opportunity that General Electric Company gives to fresh graduates: a two-year-long training program that landed him a full-time managerial job at the company.

“It just touches you when you see the impact of electricity on a certain country and a community,” said Mirabi. “There’s no way you can drive economic growth without electricity.” He expanded by giving an example of a GE set-up in an underdeveloped country, where after a while the impact of the additional energy sector is analyzed, and an obvious positive effect is noted.

“You see the economic development happening around from schools to hospitals to people being able to produce and manufacture,” he added. “It has been shown that every one percent increase in electricity production is matched by a one percent increase in GDP.”

Mirabi began as an intern on the company’s financial program in Algeria for the first six months. GE has a rotational structure, where interns switch from one area to another for the optimum experience.  

“I joined another program called corporate audit staff,” said Mirabi. “You keep moving every four months, and you change countries and businesses. I joined as a finance track, and then in 2013 I moved into the power business with GE and became a manager for the power sector with Algeria.”

General Electric Company is an American multinational that merges a vast variety of sectors aimed at bettering the overall development of the new-era technology-based industry. GE is a collaborator of the Lebanese government for development in fundamental sectors, joining specifically GE Power and the Ministry of Energy and Water in a public-private partnership aimed at the improvement of energy allocation and usage in the country.

November of last year held a seminar in Dubai pioneered by the Lebanese ministry in collaboration with GE Power to discuss possible plans for the development of the country’s power infrastructure. In July this year, GE delegates met with resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri to fortify the public-private partnership and spearhead the process of energy security.

“For the second year we’re trying to play the leader role in terms of helping the ministry shape its plan and input action and give us much credibility to what they’re doing by trying to bring the international investors into the table,” said Mirabi, adding that the challenges Lebanon faces in implementing development plans are not uncommon in the area, giving the example of similar issues in Egypt, Algeria, and Iraq. 

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just have to look at how those around us successfully solved such problems. It’s just the matter of having the courage to implement what we actually think is the solution,” he added.

In an interview with Annahar, Mirabi discussed the latest innovations in the power sector, noting that many are now interested in how to harvest solar and wind energy to produce electricity.

Mirabi pointed that there are some challenges in this area of renewable energy, such as absence of sunlight at night and lack of wind on some days. That is where the role of batteries comes in as a substitute. In addition, with the climate crisis, the importance of lesser emissions is eminent, but the demand for high-level of efficiency continues.

“The trend today is how you can marry the conventional power plant with the renewable, and how we can have both of them play together and eliminate this intermittence, and reduce the operation cost of the utility companies,” Mirabi noted. 

The digital world has also been brought forward in the industry, by way of introducing software into the operation of a power plant. According to Mirabi, the benefits of this introduction include a smarter way of reducing costs of operation of power plants and better knowledge about their function, which then enable things like proper expiry predictions and preventive maintenance.

For Lebanon, the use of gas will play a “significant role in reducing the gas emissions” the country struggles with. According to the International Energy Agency, natural gas is one of the “mainstays of global energy.”

“Each building in Lebanon is a power plant with a generator that is emitting cancerous chemicals in the air," said Mirabi. “Having gas will significantly reduce the health bill and that of electricity production.”

IEA describes the role of gas as an environmentally friendly replacement of fuel, as it improves air quality and limits emissions of carbon dioxide. According to Mirabi, people in Lebanon are paying three to four times the price of electricity within the region with the existing fuel. 

Mirabi added that these transitions would attract international investment in the country’s power infrastructure, which would both increase the country’s development in terms of quality of life, as well as boost the economy.

“The Lebanese government needs to benefit from the support of the World Bank and Cedre, and all these countries that are waiting for us to make the right moves,” said Mirabi. “We can’t depend on the politicians to decide how to run a sector that is critical for the economy and the future of this country. They should create a body of experts and leave the decision to them.”  

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