The rains have returned but repairs to hydroelectric facilities could require more blackouts

Jan 6, 2024 | 0 comments

Although Ecuador’s largest hydroelectric generation plants are operating at near-normal capacity due to recent rains, more electric blackouts may be required as maintenance work will reduce power in the coming weeks.

The three hydroelectric plants on the Rio Paute are operating at near-normal capacity due to recent rains.

“Under normal circumstances, the return to full power at the Rio Paute facilities would mean that the blackouts are over,” says former deputy energy minister Jorge Condado. “What may require that they be extended is the repair and updating work needed at the Coca Codo Sinclair plant, in the north. This work is long overdue and should have been completed last year by the previous government. Now, it cannot be delayed any longer and this will mean a temporary reduction in generation.”

Energy Minister Andrea Arrobo has made no comments about blackouts since December 26 when she said a decision on future blackouts will be made January 9, after the utility crisis committee meets in Quito.

According to Arrobo, the blackouts were required beginning in October due to low electric generation at three Rio Paute plants due to low water conditions. During the course of most years, the plants produce more than 30% of the country’s power but the drought that began in July reduced capacity by as much as 80%.

“Coca Codo, which was affected to a smaller extent by the drought, could not make up the deficit at Rio Paute,” says Condado. “In addition, its capacity was reduced as a result of the delayed maintenance.”

Even if blackouts are extended, says Condado, they would be over within a matter of weeks. “The work at Coca Codo will take three to four weeks, including testing, so we should be out of the crisis, at the latest, by the time the rainy season begins in late February.”

Condado, who worked in the Rafael Correa government, complimented Arrobo and President Daniel Noboa’s government for its response to the energy crisis. “They have done what was necessary and what should have been done by the outgoing government. Even if we have another drought later this year, I believe the steps being taken will prevent a crisis like the current one.”

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