Power cuts begin today and will continue until Christmas, Energy Ministry says; New motorcycle rules are imminent; Moreno to testify from Asunción

Oct 27, 2023 | 0 comments

With electric blackouts beginning early Friday, the Ministry of Energy predicts they will end before Christmas. “Today, we are asking for bids for thermal power generation of the 460 megawatts of electricity we need to end usage restrictions,” Energy Minister Fernando Santos said Thursday night. “This requirement is subject to change, of course, if rains replenish the hydroplant reservoirs or if the drought continues to worsen.”

Santos said the temporary gas- and diesel-fired plants will be located on the coast or on ships anchored offshore. “The bidders for the project will have extensive experience in providing emergency services like the one we require,” he said.

The drought on the Rio Paute, near the power generation plants, is the most severe in 50 years, the Energy Ministry reports.

On Thursday, the Energy Ministry approved the request by National Electricity Operator (Cenace) to begin blackouts and asked local power distributors to submit operational plans. Centrosur, the company that serves Cuenca, Azuay, Cañar and Morona Santiago Province, will present its plan at 11:30 Friday morning.

The plans will include special provisions for “critical need” institutions and facilities, such as hospitals, police and fire operations. In addition, they will offer options to industries based on production schedules.

Electric service blackouts will occur between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily, the Ministry announced, with no service interruption overnight. Blackouts will be for periods of four continuous hours in the sierra and three on the coast. Local electricity distributors will be required to announce their blackout schedules on local media and on their websites.

For the schedule of blackouts in Cuenca and Azuay Province, go to the Centrosur website.

In a statement, the Energy Ministry said the drought affecting the Andean highlands is the most extreme since 2009, the last year power blackouts were imposed. It added that conditions in the southern Andes, in the area of Cuenca and Loja, is the worst in 50 years. “Drought conditions at the Mazar, Paute Molino, Sopladora hydro complex are the worst since those plants were constructed,” the statement said. “Currently, these plants on the Rio Paute are producing at less than 40% of capacity.”

Santos said the bidding process for emergency generation is being coordinated by Quito’s public utility company and will cost the government about $160 million.

Answering listener questions Thursday on Cuenca’s Radio Tombebmaba, Santos said Tuesday’s rain showers were welcome but provided little relief. “It helped fill local rivers for a few hours but we need a hundred storms like that to end the drought on a national scale.”

Two men on motos rules announced
Rules prohibiting male passengers on motorcycles on public roadways is expected to go into effect in mid-November, according to its Cuenca Municipal Council sponsor. “We regret the need for this but it is necessary due to the large number of crimes carried out on motorcycles, especially when a male passenger is involved,” says Councilor Xavier Bermúdez.

Violators of the ordinance will have their motorcycle confiscated for a period of at least seven days and be fined the equivalent of two monthly minimum salaries.

The new rules do not apply to elderly passengers, women, students, law enforcement personnel and people with disabilities, Bermúdez says. “We are not trying to punish the innocent, only to protect the community from criminal acts.”

He adds that Cuenca has not experienced the “motorcycle murders” common in coastal cities but says that almost 50% of personal and business robberies committed in the city involve men on motorcycles.

Moreno can testify from Paraguay in upcoming corruption trial, court says
The National Court of Justice has granted former president Lenin Moreno’s request to testify from the Ecuadorian embassy in Asunción, Paraguay in the upcoming Sinohydro corruption trial. Prosecutors had asked the court to require Moreno to appear in person at the Quito trial scheduled to begin in January 2024.

According to Moreno’s attorneys, he is recuperating from a recent illness related to his disability and is not well enough to travel between Quito and Asunción.

Moreno and his wife Rocío González, also charged in the case, have lived in Asunción since late 2021, where he works with the United Nations and two other international organizations.

Moreno and González and are among 24 defendants charged with bribery and extortion related to the construction a hydro-electric dam project during the administration of former president Rafael Correa. The project contractor, Sinohydro, has also been charged in the scandal.


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