Venezuela announces power-rationing plan

January 13th, 2010 - 1:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Caracas, Jan 13 (IANS/EFE) The Venezuelan government will begin a nationwide power-rationing plan, the electricity minister has said.
Official news agency ABN cited Angel Rodriguez as saying that directors of the state-owned National Electric Corporation will explain to the public how the measure will be applied in each region so that people can take necessary precautions.

“We expect that the information provided will allow the kind of problems that can be caused by this kind of action to be minimized,” the minister said.

Rodriguez said that the measures, which came into effect Tuesday, sought to promote a level of energy savings that will keep the country active.

The minister warned that, if these measures are not observed, the descent in the water level at Guri Dam, which powers plants that generate 70 percent of Venezuela’s electricity, will put the country in a “critical” situation by the end of February.

“We’re trying to avoid Guri putting us in a very critical situation by the end of February. A general blackout in the country,” Rodriguez said.

If the measures for saving energy are applied adequately, the country can manage until the start of the rainy season and the dam fills up again, he said.

President Hugo Chavez said last Friday that civil servants will work just five hours a day starting this week, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., to help save on electricity.

“In Caracas alone we were able to save close to 187 MW - that is one of the various measures we have approved” to deal with the crisis, which also include creating an incentive for families to use less electricity, which in some cases would mean discounting a large part of their monthly bill, the president said.

“For those who lower their consumption by a significant percentage, we will eliminate a good part of their electric bill,” he said, adding that “irresponsible consumption”, drought and other factors have placed the supply of hydroelectric power in an “alarm zone”.

Hydroelectric power plants that supply almost 90 percent of Venezuela’s national consumption operate with water from the Caroni river, whose dams at present are almost 10 metres below normal levels.

The Chavez administration has ordered manufacturers, shopping malls and apartment complexes to work up a plan to reduce electricity consumption by 20 percent from 2009 levels.

The Venezuelan opposition says that the electricity crisis is an example of the inefficiency of a government that in 11 years has not carried out the plans and investments necessary in the sector, which Chavez partly acknowledged, while insisting on the effects of the drought and “capitalist waste”.

–IANS/EFE

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