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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Colombia Restricts Sale of Electricity to Venezuela, Ecuador

BOGOTA – Colombia will reduce electricity exports to Venezuela and Ecuador due to natural gas supply shortages in some parts of the country, Energy and Mines Minister Hernan Martinez said.

“We’re going to cut back a little on electricity exports to Ecuador and Venezuela,” Martinez told reporters, adding that the measure would go into effect gradually beginning Wednesday.

The export reductions are expected to be small-scale and efforts will be made to coordinate with the neighboring countries “because we don’t want to hurt them,” Martinez said.

The energy minister, who noted that Colombia exports around 340 MW of electricity to Ecuador and about 120 MW to Venezuela, did not specify the size of the cutbacks.

Colombia consumes 800 million cubic feet of gas per day and is unable to meet current domestic demand, particularly in the center of the country, due to a lack of storage and transport capacity, Martinez said.

Shortages of compressed natural gas, or CNG, over the past two weeks in Bogota, home to 7 million residents, have especially affected people who use that gasoline substitute to power their vehicles.

Colombia is using more natural gas for electricity generation to avoid further depleting reservoirs, now at just 70 percent of capacity, Martinez said.

Officials want to safeguard hydroelectric supplies due to concerns about the El Niño weather phenomenon, caused by the periodic warming of central and eastern tropical Pacific waters.

The head of forecasts and alerts at the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies, Humberto Gonzalez, told Efe that “El Niño has manifested itself in a lack of rainfall in the Caribbean and Andean regions, home to 75 percent of the population.”

Atmospheric phenomena like El Niño and La Niña “are becoming periodic when they hadn’t been before” in Colombia, according to Gonzalez, who said the current El Niño is expected to affect the country through the end of the first quarter of 2010. EFE

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