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Lebanon's Energy Minister Walid Fayad, centre, says the solar plants will send a positive signal to the international community. Reuters

Lebanon has issued permits to 11 companies to build solar power plants that can produce 15 megawatts each, as the country battles severe electricity shortages.

Energy Minister Walid Fayad said the companies — which are domestic and international — would have a year to secure funding.

Electricity produced from solar energy would cost between 3.6 to 5.7 cents a kilowatt hour, compared with 10 to 15 cents for power generated from fuel, Mr Fayad said in Beirut on Thursday.

He said the licences would sent a positive signal to the international community, which has urged Lebanon to reform its energy sector.

The American University of Beirut said that since 1992, “the share of the electricity sector spending, including subsidies, has accounted for around $40 billion, which is around 40 per cent of Lebanon’s government debt“.

Lebanon’s state electricity supplier only provides about two to three hours of power a day, forcing people to turn to expensive private generators.

The country’s energy demand is more than 3,000MW a day.

Mr Fayad said he would travel to Syria on Sunday to negotiate a deal on importing Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity through Syria, in a project supported by the US and with World Bank financing.

The deal would lead to about six more hours of power a day.

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