Blackouts will be suspended from December 15 until after New Year’s but will resume in January

Dec 5, 2023 | 0 comments

New Energy Minister Andrea Arrobo said that electric blackouts will be suspended from December 15 until after the New Year’s holidays but will probably return the first week of January.

Low water levels have plagued Ecuador’s hydroelectric plants in recent months, especially the ones on the Rio Paute east of Cuenca.

In a Monday press conference, Arrobo said that comments from the Guillermo Lasso government that electricity rationing would end for good in December were premature. “Some statements by the outgoing government that the power shortage would soon be over were overly optimistic,” she said. “We have been unable to substantiate the new sources of electricity they said were coming online.”

She added that the announced start-ups of gas and diesel-powered generation plants on the coast have been delayed by contract issues.

One of the “gray areas” needing clarification is the agreement Lasso reached with Colombian President Gustavo Petro. Following his meeting in Bogota, Lasso said the additional electricity Colombia would supply to Ecuador would be repaid in kind in the future. “Apparently, this message did not reach electric service managers in Colombia and Ecuador has already paid $220 million for the additional power and almost all of this was paid by the Lasso government at prices much higher than we have paid in the past,” Arrobo said. “We are trying to get clarity about the agreement and will insist on the principle of reciprocity since we’ve never sold electricity to Colombia at such high prices.”

Arrobo said the government has absorbed most of the additional cost for electricity since August, which represents a 35% increase over the same period in 2022.

Arrobo compared Ecuador’s electricity generation sector to a “patient in intensive care,” blaming the Lasso government for planning failures. “The scenario is complex and, in the short term, we don’t have a comprehensive solution,” she said. “We are in the process of discovering what previous officials had done and we need this information to move forward.”

Ecuador’s hydro generation plants continue to be plagued by drought conditions, according to Arrobo. “We received some welcome rain last week, but dry conditions have returned and we are watching water levels in the rivers and reservoirs dropping again,” she said. “Under normal weather conditions, we expect almost daily rains in the areas near the facilities but that is not happening this year.”

She added: “The dry weather is the result of El Niño and if drought conditions in the highlands, near our generation facilities continue, the situation could get worse before it improves.”


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