Tuesday, November 17, 2009
QUITO – Ecuador’s government announced plans to ease the power rationing it imposed as a result of a sharp fall in output from a hydroelectric plant that normally supplies 40 percent of the Andean nation’s electricity.
The acting minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, Juan Espinoza, said the length of programmed blackouts will be reduced by half once the power Peru agreed to sell Ecuador becomes available.
“If (power) is being cut four hours in a sector or a city, the cut will be two hours from here on,” he said, adding that Ecuador was also in the process of activating two petroleum-fueled electric plants.
Espinoza spoke to Ecuavisa television shortly after the office of Peruvian President Alan Garcia announced that the head of state, now traveling in Asia, had signed an executive order authorizing the sale of electricity to Quito.
The reservoir at the Paute River dam that powers Ecuador’s key hydroelectric complex is 20 meters (65 feet) below optimal levels.
Only two of the plant’s 10 turbines are currently functioning.
Paute can supply up to 20,000 MW per hour under normal conditions, but present output has fallen to just 4,000-5,000 MW per hour amid a severe drought.
Low rainfall amounts began causing alarm in September, traditionally a rainy month in Ecuador, and concerns grew further when the drought continued into October.
But Ecuavisa reported that some rain fell Thursday at Paute, though forecasters do not call for significant precipitation over the coming days in the areas near the dam.
The head of the Quito Chamber of Commerce, Blasco Peñaherrera, said he expected the power shortages to last for at least another three months, costing the country’s economy as much as $1.8 billion in lost output.
President Rafael Correa blames the crisis on neglect by previous administrations that failed to build new power plants. He says his government has already started work on around a dozen new facilities. EFE
Posted by Ecuador Rebelde at 2:07 pm