Mérida, October 23rd 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) — To increase national production and reduce national consumption of electricity, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez created a new Ministry for Electricity and ordered a team of ministers to organize a national educational campaign to save energy.
“We are going to strengthen and revive the national electric system,” Chavez announced in a nationally televised meeting with his Council of Ministers on Wednesday.
For the past month and a half, Venezuela’s national electricity company, CORPOELEC, has been rationing electricity through daily, one to two-hour blackouts in most regional cities and towns.
In public declarations, the company explained that demand for energy increased faster than the company’s capacity to produce it over the past five and half years, during which the economy grew for more than twenty consecutive quarters.
Chavez reiterated this problem on Wednesday. “From 1998 to today the demand has increased by 5,000 megawatts, from 12,000 we jumped to 17,000 megawatts,” Chavez said.
Also, according to a recent report by the Environment Ministry, oceanic and atmospheric changes linked to the El Niño phenomenon have caused a sharp drop in water levels at Venezuela’s Guri hydroelectric complex, which produces more than 70% of the Caribbean country’s electricity.
The first task of the new Ministry for Electricity will be to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure for electricity production and distribution, and accelerate the construction of several hydroelectric and thermoelectric projects that are underway in different regions of the country, Chavez said.
Also, to reduce corruption and bureaucracy and increase the participation of workers in CORPOELEC’s management, Chavez created a planning commission headed by his close confident, Vice President and Defense Minister Ramon Carrizalez, with instructions to incorporate the electricity workers in the solution of persistent problems in the sector.
The law that was passed to govern the national electricity sector after it was nationalized in 2007 mandated significant changes in the sector, but “there are managers who still do not want to make these changes,” Chavez explained.
As a further positive signal to the electricity workers, who held a protest last month to demand worker control of the sector, Chavez appointed National Assembly Legislator Angel Rodriguez as the new Minister for Electricity and president of CORPOELEC. Rodriguez is a well-known unionist from the Socialist Bolivarian Workers Front (FSBT), and he headed up the Energy and Mining Commission in the National Assembly.
“I am pleased to inform the country and most of all the working class, because he [Rodriguez] is a worker, a legislator, a great fighter, an honest and studious man, and I am going to put him in charge,” Chavez announced on national television on Thursday.
“There are those who resist the full participation of the workers. We are going to give worker control to the workers, by placing a worker at the top,” Chavez added.
In addition to revamping the electricity sector, Chavez ordered his ministers for energy and oil, basic industries and mining, science and technology, finance, education, and the environment to organize a national campaign to promote energy conservation.
Moreover, the government will re-initiate its free distribution of energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs in exchange for incandescent light bulbs in private homes and offices nation-wide, a program which began in 2007 with the exchange of millions of bulbs.
The president set a goal for the coming year to reduce energy consumption by 20% in public institutions and state-owned enterprises such as the oil company PDVSA and the mining company CVG. To show that all Venezuelans must take responsibility for lowering consumption, Chavez said the presidential building Miraflores will reduce its own energy consumption by 50%.
“All Venezuelans should contribute our grain of sand in this task of decreasing the demand for energy… There should not be any privileged sector,” said the president.
Laws and Law Reforms
Also during Wednesday’s meeting with his Council of Ministers, Chavez put his final signature of approval on reforms to four laws pertaining to military administration and enlistment, urban lands, and youth programs.
The law modifications transfer the administration of the reserves to each respective branch of the armed forces, and outline the functions of the popular militias, which are volunteer reserve battalions, based in local communities. They also place the minimum term of voluntary military service at one year. The Urban Land Law allows the government to expropriate unused urban land, including land that is privately owned by real estate speculators but left idle, to be used for social programs and other public benefits. And, the modification of the National Youth Law creates a new National Institute for Youth and gives youth the right to occupy vacant jobs in places they have been volunteering.