A worker-run energy plan in Venezuela

More than 140,000 Caracas residents will benefit from the worker-led recovery of an abandoned power plant on the outskirts of Caracas.

By Edward Ellis - Correo del Orinoco International
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During an inspection of the power plant La Mariposa, Venezuelan Energy Minister Ali Rodriguez reported that the facility would soon have the capacity to produce 45 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to supply the residents of the neighborhood of Altos Mirandinos and southeast Caracas.

The plant was taken over by Venezuelan workers in March in response to the electricity crisis that had been affecting the country over the past year.

“In addition to reestablishing the machinery that was inactive, we are installing a new generation capacity to satisfy the demand that we foresee due to population growth, industrial development and an improving living standard for residents of the country”, explained Vice President Elias Jaua last Thursday.

Cuban workers from their country’s Electric Union have assisted the Venezuelans in the rehabilitation of the plant, which had been neglected for more than 20 years.

“This is an example of the political decision that President Hugo Chavez has taken to involve workers of the [electric] sector in the solution to the national electric emergency. Together, with the support of Cuban workers, the job has been completed of rehabilitating facilities that were totally abandoned and discarded by former governments as a way to advance the privatization of the electric sector”, Jaua said.

DEPENDENCE ON HYDROELECTRIC POWER

Seventy percent of electricity in Venezuela is hydroelectric, generated by the Guri Dam in the state of Bolivar.

When a prolonged drought significantly reduced the dam’s water level earlier this year, the supply of electricity in the nation could not meet rising demand, resulting in frequent power outages across the country.

Claiming they had the skills and knowledge to help pull the country out of the crisis, workers from the state-run national electricity corporation Corpoelec took to the streets last September to demand greater participation in the management of the company.

According to the workers, many of the problems associated with the crisis were the product of excessive bureaucracy in Corpoelec.

Last December, the government signed an historic, industry-wide collective contract with workers, establishing the parameters for greater worker involvement in the management and decision-making processes of the company.

The worker-led revitalization of the power plant La Mariposa represents part of an overall government strategy to improve and diversify the electric sector of the country.

“We will be installing at least 15,000 additional megawatts until the year 2015”, affirmed Vice President Jaua.

According to Jaua, the government has been able to achieve the addition of 1,087 MW to the National Electric System in the past six months.

ENERGY PLAN

Electricity Minister, Ali Rodriguez, spoke during the inspection about steps that need to be taken to avoid problems in the future.

“We are honest about the fact that there are problems that still need to be resolved, problems in which we have involved workers to advance the transmission systems and in some cases distribution. We are renovating the entire Venezuelan electric system”.

Part of the renovation includes an energy plan in the western state of Zulia, which according to the government, will add 3,000 MW and cover the total demand of the state.

In the Andean region of the country, a new dam and generating plant are under construction to add another 500 MW.