Ecuador may export electricity to Colombia, Venezuela

February 19th, 2010 - 11:27 am ICT by IANS  

Quito, Feb 19 (IANS/EFE) The Ecuadorian government has said it has overcome an electricity crisis and may even be in a position to export power to Colombia and Venezuela.
“We can say we’ve overcome the power crisis in the country,” Electricity and Renewable Energy Minister Miguel Calahorrano said in statements posted on the website of the presidential press office.

The minister added that Ecuador currently has sufficient capacity to consider exporting power to Colombia, which he said may be interested because it is facing a problem of low water levels at its hydroelectric plants.

He said that the issue was discussed with Ecuadorian head of state Rafael Correa during the most recent gathering of Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, presidents in Quito.

“At the Unasur summit last week, the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, asked President Correa if we had the capacity sell them electricity, if necessary,” the Ecuadorian minister said.

Calahorrano told Correa that Ecuador does have that capability now that it has overcome an output shortfall caused by lack of rain in the southern Andean region, where the Paute hydroelectric plant - Ecuador’s largest - is located.

Colombia had sold electricity to Ecuador while the latter was struggling with power shortages.

The Paute Dam, which supplies roughly 35 percent of Ecuador’s electricity needs, is now operating normally and that has enabled Ecuador to suspend a power-rationing programme that had been in effect from Nov 4 to Jan 20.

“I talked today with the Colombian energy minister (Hernan Martinez) and he told me that we could even sell electricity to Venezuela via Colombia,” Calahorrano said.

He stressed that his ministry’s priority is to finish construction of two hydroelectric plants so they are ready to come on stream by October at the latest and the country can avoid a new electricity crisis during the next end-of-year dry season.

Venezuelan media reported Wednesday that President Hugo Chavez’s government was considering offers by Brazil and Colombia to sell it electricity.

Venezuela is experiencing critical electricity shortages that experts warn could cause a collapse of the power grid in the short term.

The crisis has forced the government to declare a state of emergency and launch an energy-saving plan in Caracas that includes fines and even suspensions of service for excessive power consumers.

The Venezuelan government also said that starting March 1 consumers whose water use exceeds allowable levels will be punished with higher rates and even service cut-offs, part of a plan to preserve reservoir levels at hydroelectric dams amid a prolonged, severe drought.

–IANS/EFE

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