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Venezuela strengthens saving measures to prevent electrical breakdown

Between October and November the Guri dam level dropped 1.45 meters

The possibility of bombing the clouds to create artificial rain in the headwaters of the Caroni River has been delayed by the lack of humidity (File photo)

It was after the second major blackout in Venezuela, back on September 3 this year, that the government hinted a power saving plan.

Earlier, in May, seven high-tension towers of the network providing electricity to substation Santa Teresa and supplying power to Caracas and nearby areas collapsed. The incident was the result of "for heavy winds," officials said. Also, in August, a large blackout hit at least 10 states.

During such significant power disruptions, there was a "huge power demand on the Guri dam," due to increased electricity demand and a power generation deficit at 2 to 3 percent that still persists, despite efforts to raise contributions to the system, noted at that time the then president of the National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec), Hipólito Izquierdo.

Besides Izquierdo's allegations, authorities claimed that El Niño weather phenomenon resulted in reduced rainfall and prolonged droughts that have curtailed the levels of water in dams. Further, there has been "excessive consumption or wasteful use of energy."

Attacks on all sides
President Hugo Chávez announced on October 21 the creation of the Ministry of Electricity and implementation of a number of emergency measures to reduce the growing electricity demand. His so-called "stringent standards" require government agencies to cut power consumption by 20 percent, among other measures.

Fourteen days later, Vice-President Ramón Carrizález, Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Rafael Ramírez, and Minister of Electric Power, Ángel Rodríguez, reviewed, at a press conference, the contents of several decrees and resolutions to reduce electricity demand.

Such decrees urge private companies owning coal-fired generation plants to supply power to their industrial and commercial activities, but also to contribute the excess to the National Interconnected System (SIN). If these production or services facilities do not meet this requirement, the energy authorities have the power to take control of those machines.

The set of rules includes the need to raise power rates for subscribers with high power consumption. This debate is still under way.

The government also decided to ban import of some household appliances and to replace 50 million incandescent light bulbs.

The day after
The National Center of Management (CNG) in its November report noted that the maximum power demand on the system that month stood at 17,248 megawatts (Mw), 5.49 percent higher compared to the same period in 2008 and 0.27 percent higher compared with October this year.

Power generation in November was 112,960 gigawatt-hour (GWh) compared to 108,353 GWh in the same period in 2008. Meanwhile, installed capacity increased from 23,154 MW in November 2008 to 23,642 MW in November 2009.

The Guri dam has dropped 1.45 meters from October to November, sliding from 265.80 to 264.35 meters above sea level. In January, it stood at 270.95 meters.

Mariela León

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