Energy minister says blackouts are over, contradicts a warning from national power grid operator

Jun 8, 2024 | 0 comments

Three days after the National Electricity Operator (Cenace) warned that more electric blackouts are possible, Ecuador’s Energy Minister Roberto Luque announced Friday that the blackouts are over. “We are finished with the power cuts due to the lack of electric generation capacity,” he said Friday afternoon. “I see no need for scheduled service interruptions in the foreseeable future.”

Energy Minister Roberto Luque during a visit last week to the Coca Coda Sinclair hydroelectric plant.

Luque said he was “clarifying” the Cenace report, not correcting it. “Cenace is concentrating narrowly on conditions at its power generation stations, which it should do, and not considering the larger picture which includes the Energy Ministry’s work to contract for new capacity and to strengthen links to the power grids of Colombia and Peru.”

Luque also said Cenace is not considering energy conservation measures adopted by the industrial sector which he says will reduce electricity demand.

In its Tuesday statement, Cenace said that the dry season, which begins in June in the southern sierra, could lower reservoir levels at the several hydroelectric plants and reduce generation capacity, especially at the Mazar-Paute complex in Azuay Province. As a result, it said power blackouts are possible through February 2025.

In addition to plans to add new thermal generation stations, Luque said that hydrological conditions have improved “dramatically,” refilling reservoir levels at Mazar and other plants, ending the need for additional blackouts. “I can say definitively that the risk of scheduled outages no longer exists.”

In what he said was his last daily press conference regarding the electricity crisis, Luque said the country’s electric system remains in “extreme need” of new development. “It has suffered from poor management and operational neglect, but it has also suffered from a lack of upgrades and new projects, which require investment. We are looking to the private sector as well as public funding sources for remedies.”

He added: “I am not saying the crisis is over. We have a great amount of work to do to revitalize the network. What I can say is that work is underway, and we are no longer ignoring the problem.”

Asked about the threat of a new drought, Luque said the system is in better condition to handle it. “Recent improvements, both technically and hydrologically, have strengthened our position and with new generation coming online by the end of the year I think we will have no problem maintaining service.”

He said much of the repair work on the country’s hydroelectric plants is either completed or underway. He also said he is optimistic the sedimentation problem at the Coca Coda Sinclair plant can be solved. “The consultants have investigated and believe they have found a filtration system to solve the issue,” he said.

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