Power shortage forces Energy Ministry to reduce non-blackout holidays and extend blackouts periods

Dec 13, 2023 | 0 comments

Although there will be no electricity blackouts for the Christmas and New Years holidays, Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy is cancelling an earlier plan to suspend blackouts from December 15 to January 2. In addition, the ministry said it will increase blackout periods from two to three hours.

The Coca Codo Sinclair hydrogeneration plant east of Quito will be partially disabled on January 6 and 7 for maintenance. The facility produces almost 30% of Ecuador’s electricity.

Energy Minister Andrea Arrobo blames the change on worsening drought conditions at three hydrogeneration plants on the Paute River on the Azuay Province border, east of Cuenca, and the need for maintenance at the Coca Codo Sinclair plant near Quito. “We regret making the change but it is required by the continuing drought and the fact that maintenance can no longer be delayed at Coca Codo,” she said. She criticized the previous government for delaying needed repairs and upgrades not only at Coca Codo Sinclair and at two small facilities.

The ministry said there will be no blackouts December 23, 24 and 25, and December 30, 31 and January 1, 2024.

According to Arrobo, low water conditions on the Paute River is the biggest concern entering 2024. “Under normal weather patterns, the three plants on the Paute supply 35% to 40% of the country’s needs, but now, they are producing less than 15%,” she said. She added that Coca Codo Sinclair produces 30% of total usage but is currently producing below 25%.

She called the delay in maintenance at Coca Codo Sinclair “inexcusable” but said it can no longer be put off. “There is no explanation of the neglect by previous management and now it has to be done at the worst possible time,” she says. The plant will be partially disabled January 6 and 7, and possible longer, so the work can be completed.

Arrobo also said that most of the plans announced six weeks ago by the Guillermo Lasso government to alleviate the electricity shortage have failed to materialize. “The contracts for the thermal generation to fill the 465 megawatt deficit were not properly written and have to be scuttled. We have to restart the bidding process and are unsure how long this will take,” she said.

The contracts will provide electricity generation on offshore power generation ships and at a plant in Esmeraldas.

In addition, Arrobo said, the terms of the power transfer from Colombia to Ecuador arranged by Lasso are not clear and must be renegotiated. “The agreements announced by the former president are not correct,” she said, adding she was traveling to Bogota immediately following Tuesday’s press conference to “resolve the confusion.”

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