Chavez Accepts Responsibility for Blackouts in Venezuela

Following nationwide blackouts, the Venezuelan government acknowledged its responsibility and outlined a plan to fix the ongoing problem.
Hydropower plant in Guyana (Tamara Pearson)

Merida, September 5, 2008 (– Following nationwide blackouts, the Venezuelan government acknowledged its responsibility and outlined a plan to fix the ongoing problem.

On Monday, September 3rd, there were three blackouts in Merida, lasting an hour or more and disrupting work, school, and university life. The third blackout occurred at night, leaving streets pitch black, and chaos on the roads as cars tried to navigate intersections without traffic lights.

Similar situations could be seen across the country, including in Caracas, where trains were stranded.

This follows a previous nationwide blackout on April 29. Blackouts in Andean states are common.

In a press conference Friday, September 5, Chavez said the blackouts were the responsibility of the government, and that "There is no revolution without electricity and no future without a good electricity system."

Accompanied by members of the Central Committee for Planning and Energy, Chavez insisted on the necessity of working without rest to resolve the problem, which he attributed to the fact that supply is not meeting the growth in demand.

"We're in a transition from an old model to this new age of energy revolution," he said.

Whilst acknowledging that the process of nationalization of the industry has gone through a series of problems, he also questioned that the government hasn't gone at the "required speed" to look for solutions.

However, he also highlighted that it is the workers in the sector who are at the forefront of accelerating the solutions to such historical problems.

Chavez also accused the opposition media of wanting to plant pessimism with their coverage of the electricity failures.

"Now they are saying that because (I) nationalized the (electricity) sector the failures are starting, well no….that's what the oligarchs want, they will die in their bitterness."

Chavez assured that the government is working towards implementing 42 structural projects (18 of expansion, 11 associated, and 13 for widening networks), which include the inauguration of the thermo-electric plant, Josefa Camejo, in the state of Falcon (by 27 September), with a capacity of 450 megawatts. Falcon is one of the states where supply of electricity does not meet demand.  

He also highlighted the construction of dams for the generation of electricity and the thermo-electric plant Termozulia II, which is expected to be inaugurated between the October 21 and 25 and will generate 460 megawatts for the region of Zulia. This plant will use combined cycle technology, which takes advantage of the gases and heat that escape in order to generate additional electricity without using fuel.

Altogether an increase of 1,335 megawatts is anticipated when other plants are also modernized.

Beyond the next few months, the government wants to construct the Hydroelectric plant Mazparro in the state of Barinas, which will insert a total of 25 megawatts into the national electric generation. It should be inaugurated in early 2009 and will unite with the thermo-electric plant Juan Antonio Rodriguez, which is currently being maintained and in which the government is investing in its modernization.

Also, the thermo-electric plant Planta Centro is in a process of reconversion that will see electricity produced with gas and not with diesel fuel. Chavez emphasized that this will contribute to the decrease of pollution.

He also announced that the National Electric Corporation (Corpoelec) is handling 874 plans of distribution to improve the supply of electricity to the population. From this year until 2014 it is hoped to have sustainable growth in line with the demand increase of 5.7%.

Chavez stressed that such investment seeks to recover the electricity generation capacity, which was abandoned by previous administrations.

Finally, to avoid excess electricity demand, Chavez called on citizens to leave behind the "wasteful culture" and adopt a "culture of energy saving".

"There is a barbarous increase in the consumption of energy. We are aware, well one of the components of this situation is the waste of energy."