Following new regulations, street lighting in Libya now features high-efficiency LED bulbs. | Credit: Seraj Hamid, LPFM

Can Libya Flip the Switch to Energy Conservation?

By Valerie Gwinner

Libya has vast energy resources. With electricity prices heavily subsidized by the national government and people experiencing daily power outages, public awareness of the need to conserve energy is limited. Libyans are used to paying next to nothing in power bills (if they pay at all), and per capita consumption is several times that of other countries in the region. However, even oil-rich Libya is recognizing the need to change the course of its electricity consumption and conserve more energy. USAID is supporting this effort through its Libya Public Financial Management project, known as LPFM/Bab Al Tamkeen. 

LPFM/Bab Al Tamkeen has collaborated with the General Electric Company of Libya (GECOL) to develop Libya's National Energy Action Plan, which aims to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2025. To help meet this goal, LPFM/Bab Al Tamkeen is providing technical assistance and expertise to GECOL and other stakeholders to design initiatives that promote more efficient technologies and practices, along with consumer awareness building to drive changes in energy use and demand.

LPFM/Bab Al Tamkeen has actively assisted in the development of reforms that define national standards for high-efficiency appliances, and only allow for the import of light bulbs or home appliances that meet those standards. On the public education side, however, the task is more complex, as it involves convincing consumers that they are both part of the problem and the solution to Libya’s chronic power cuts.  

Many Libyans associate daily blackouts with faulty service supply and not with high electricity demand, particularly during peak demand periods. In summer, for example, it is not unusual for households to turn up the air conditioning in every room, also leaving on lights and appliances, regardless of whether or not anyone is actually home. Reem Al Flani, a public sector employee and freelance journalist describes public attitudes this way, “We consume much electricity due to the nature of the hot climate in Libya and our lives, which we spend mostly indoors at home or in buildings.” 

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Libya’s per capita energy consumption is high compared to other countries
Libya’s per capita energy consumption is high compared to other countries

To appeal to consumers more directly, LPFM/Bab Al Tamkeen is developing a national electricity conservation campaign with GECOL aimed at raising awareness and changing behaviors. The campaign will be featured in TV spots, on billboards, and through a new app that sends updates to consumers about ways they can help reduce pressure on the power grid and ensure more reliable service for everyone. This demand-side effort complements GECOL’s reforms to improve its operational and financial efficiency.

Another component of the energy conservation campaign is to try to improve GECOL’s public image and bridge the gap in trust between consumers and the company. “Convincing people to conserve energy begins with greater transparency at GECOL,” notes Mr. Al Flani. “If citizens trust the company, they will care more about the issue and changing their behaviors.” 

Already, LPFM/Bab Al Tamkeen has worked with GECOL to publicly post electricity tariffs on social media for greater transparency, and it continues to support reforms within the company to improve business practices and efficiencies. The project also helped put in place a multi-stakeholder oversight committee for GECOL, which serves as a precursor to an independent regulatory body to balance the interests of consumers and the company.

Libya, which has long relied on its oil resources to generate both power and national revenues, is now on the cusp of a new energy era. A proposed Libyan Electricity Law, developed with LPFM/Bab Al Tamkeen and slated to be passed soon, will open the door for private sector participation in electricity generation, including the application of renewable energy sources. By addressing both the country’s supply and demand for electricity services, USAID is working to apply more sustainable solutions for Libya – not just to keep the lights on but also to help power greater economic growth and social stability for Libyan people.

Country
Libya
Strategic Objective
Mitigation
Topics
Conflict and Governance, Economic Growth, Energy, Mitigation, Private Sector Engagement, Resilience, Urban
Region
Middle East & North Africa

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