Caracas, January 13, 2010 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Electricity Minister Angel Rodriguez announced a plan for nationwide electricity rationing on Monday, to combat a crisis in the electricity sector. Many regions of the country have been experiencing unplanned power outages for months as a record drought combined with poor planning and structural problems in the electricity sector affected production and distribution capacity.
Rodriguez contended the rationing is necessary to prevent water levels in the Guri hydro-electric dam—which provides 70 percent of the country’s power needs—from dropping to critical lows. “With these measures, we’re trying to keep Guri from taking us to a very critical situation at the end of February, from creating let’s say a total shutdown of the country,” he told state television.
The electricity cuts of four hours duration every other day will continue until May when seasonal rains are expected to increase water levels in the Guri Dam.
Rationing began in the capital, Caracas, on Wednesday. Each region will design its own particular plan Rodríguez said.
The government has already ordered a twenty percent reduction of commercial electricity use, in particular for shopping malls and casinos, as well as a partial shut down of state-run steel and aluminum plants.
In addition, the government is also promoting an awareness campaign to save energy and water and has distributed 8 million energy-saving light bulbs for free, with a plan to distribute a further 50 million.
Last week, in a further move to reduce energy consumption, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decreed a change in the work schedule for all public administration officials, from 9am-5pm to 8am-1pm, apart from essential services and those sectors that deal directly with the public.
The measure, which will be effective for 150 days, does not affect job security, and other legal and contractual rights of workers, in particular, salaries, wages, and other regular payments.
Javier Alvarado, president of Electricidad de Caracas, a subsidiary of the state-owned electricity corporation, CORPOLEC, said the rationing would help cover a 12 percent gap between energy supply and demand, due to the situation at Guri.