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Wednesday, 25 November, 2020

KEYS | Why there is no electricity in Venezuela

The three nationwide blackouts registered in 2020 were -according to reports by Corpoelec- due to failures in the backbone transmission network, made up of lines with capacities ranging from 765 to 230 kilovolts, through which 80% of the energy consumed in the country get transmitted.

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Millions of Venezuelans are left without electricity service every day for up to 18 hours. Even though Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez claim to have spent 62 billion dollars since the first electrical emergency decree was signed ten years ago, on February 8, 2010, blackouts, brownouts, and rationing are now the new normal.

When power fails, hospitals fail, as the vast majority of them do not have emergency generators, the Red Cross noted at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. Water is no distributed either, worsening an existing shortage affecting 90% of the country, as pumps cannot work without power.

And most of the money Chavism claims to have spent shoring up electricity generation went to Derwick, a company that disappeared from Venezuela accused of corrupt dealings with Maduro.

In the beginning, power-cuts -accidental or scheduled- were endured only in the hinterlands, but even the capital city Caracas is now suffering the blackouts. In the central region of the country, there is no continuous and reliable electrical service because the deterioration of the system is getting worse.

Ten years ago, power cuts and service failures were briefer than now, when the Guri hydroelectric plant in the state of Bolivar, which produces 70% of the energy consumed in the country, was on the verge of being paralyzed by a prolonged drought, as the government of the late Hugo Chavez argued. By then, a rationing plan was applied throughout Venezuela to save electricity, except in Caracas.

Below, El Pitazo presents you with the key factors that have influenced the current electricity situation in Venezuela and compare the service that existed in the country a decade ago with the one that exists today:

  • Ten years ago, with a demand for electricity that remained above 15,300 megawatts, Corpoelec only rationed 0.5% of that consumption. In 2020, when the demand has decreased to 12,260 MW, the state-owned electricity company ration 15%.
  • Currently, there is no drought in Guri. Its reservoir is full and discharging excess water away, according to sources and reports from the state-run electric company. However, it is generating less than a decade ago. Today it produces nearly 1,000 MW less than in 2010, the equivalent of the electricity needs for the state of Táchira, in which inhabitants report up to 18 hours a day without electricity and 500 blackouts in 2020.
  • The electrical crises have induced, critics say. There are more than 170 thermal generation turbines stopped. Where the most money invested is where performance is far below standard.
  • Chavismo spent at least 70% of the 62 billion dollars it spent in the last ten years in the electricity sector, according to research by engineer Jose Aguilar, an international consultant in electricity generation systems.
  • However, Venezuela generates 64% less thermoelectric energy than ten years ago, despite having an installed capacity, which in theory doubles what it had a decade ago.
  • In 2010, the country’s thermoelectric park had an installed capacity of 10,128 MW and produced 48%. A decade later, in which dozens of thermoelectric units got installed, production is 9% (1,750 MW) of the 20,331 MW installed capacity in 2020.
  • The deficit of the system is 3,143 MW, more than the consumption of the state of Zulia, the most affected by the electricity crisis. Maracaibo counts ten general blackouts this 2020.
  • In the Venezuelan capital, out of 33 big thermal units, only four are functioning. 3,500 MW in capacity get stopped due to damages, lack of maintenance, and equipment breakdown, assured engineer Aguilar.
  • The Guri was never the problem nor the cause of the electrical rationing in 2010 and then in 2016, when the reservoir was one meter away from reaching its minimum level of 240 meters above sea level and paralyzing the generation of the country’s main hydroelectric plant, according to Aguilar.
  • The millions of resources spent on the SEN do not show satisfactory results because there was a “bad investment,” lack of maintenance, and high costs due to corruption, said engineer Aguilar.
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