Speaking after the inspection of the Guri dam in the State of Bolivar, Vice President Jaua praised the government for its successful management of a crisis the conservative Venezuelan opposition had predicted would drive the country into chaos.
“We are here at the Guri Reservoir, in the name of President Hugo Chavez, to show this important achievement that comes not only from nature but also from the persevering policies of a government that knew how to alert the Venezuelan people about the affects of the weather phenomenon El Niño”.
Despite being one of the largest oil producing countries in the world, Venezuela is highly dependent on hydroelectric energy. The Guri dam is responsible for the generation of 70% of Venezuela’s electricity.
A prolonged drought over the past year brought the dam’s reservoir to historically low levels, substantially reducing energy production for the nation and forcing the government to implement nationwide rationing and conservation programs while looking for alternative energy sources.
Jaua informed the nation last Sunday that, due to a robust rainy season, the reservoir’s water level had now reached 270 meters, a meter away from its maximum level.
The restored water levels permitted the gates of the dam’s hydroelectric generator, Simon Bolivar, to be opened on Sunday in what the Vice President considered to be an “important victory for the people” and a “triumph for the revolution”.
Investment in Energy
Although climatic conditions were the main factor in Venezuela’s electricity crisis, the power shortages throughout the country also drew attention to a neglected infrastructure, which the government says it inherited from previous administrations.
As a response, the Chavez government began to invest heavily in the energy sector which, according to Jaua, “allowed us in record time of 6 months to incorporate 1,700 Megawatts” to the national system.
Venezuela has a current national electricity consumption of 17,000 MW, and demand has increased by 40% following years of high economic growth and increase in consumer access and buying power.
The government’s stated goal is to increase production by 5,900 MW by the end of the year to allow for the states of Zulia and Anzoategui, as well as the capital district of Caracas, to become completely independent of electricity generated by the Guri dam.
Hugo Marquez, president of the congressional subcommittee on electricity said the government would not stop in its efforts to meet demand and improve the nation’s energy infrastructure.
“The government will continue with this important task of carrying out maintenance, of updating the system to meet an increased demand, improving the output of transmission substations, and carrying out important investments to increase thermoelectric generation so we can stop dependence on hydroelectric generation”, explained Marquez.
The congressman noted that a major factor in the generation of the crisis was the abandonment of the energy sector from past governments whose neoliberal policies had favored privatization.
According to Marquez, the drought was “an additional factor that complicated the electric system” driving the government to take action.
One of the measures the Chavez government implemented to curb the crisis was the reduction of heavy industry, specifically steel and aluminum.
With the restoration of the water levels of the Guri dam, those operations will now slowly begin to resume production.
“We are reactivating basic businesses and we’re going to improve production”, said Basic Industries Minister, Jose Khan.
“Without energy at the end of the year, we were going to produce 180 thousand tons of steel. However with this monster of a river, we’re going to cover almost three million tons of steel which means we’re going to have a production capacity of 84%”, Khan stated.
The energy crisis also enabled Venezuela to raise awareness regarding conservation and personal responsibility in preserving natural resources. As a result, a majority of Venezuelans have become more mindful of water usage and electricity consumption.
The state-funded Mission Energy program supplied over 60 million cold-energy saving lightbulbs to households and communities across the nation earlier this year.