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Widespread Blackouts Loom As Venezuela’s Dams Run out of Water

By: Sabrina Martín - @SabrinaMartinR - Mar 16, 2016, 2:56 pm
The water level at the the world's fourth largest artificial lake drops rapidly, leaving Venezuela's dams at the brink of a national blackout (Analitica) 
The water level at one of the world’s largest artificial lakes has dropped rapidly, leaving Venezuela at the brink of an energy crisis (Analitica).

EspañolAlthough the Venezuelan government blamed the decrease in size of the Guri dam — the fourth largest artificial lake in the world — on El Niño, engineers said recently that the crisis was actually caused by mismanagement of resources, thermal system malfunction and drought.

The Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant, second in the world for electricity production, recently saw its water levels decrease to just 3.56 meters above total collapse.

“The waters in Guri have not reached the floodgates,” said Luis Motta Domínguez, head of Venezuela’s Electricity Ministry, during a press conference on Monday. “We are working to manage the vital fluid.”

But some energy specialists said they believe the country was at the brink of a national blackout. In addition, they said Venezuela has failed to make the necessary investments in thermal-generation plant systems for more than 15 years.

The thermoelectric power system is at 247 meters above sea level, said member of the National Electricity Commission Joel Carrillo. Turbines shut down at 244 meters, which would result in increased electricity rations for more of the population.

At an average decline of 15 centimeters per day, this shutdown should occur sometime between 21 and 25 days, unless it rains, Carillo said.

José Aguilar, Professor of Engineering at the University of Los Andes, told the Venezuelan newspaper Correo del Caroní that current levels are only 18 percent of the reservoir’s expected capacity, creating a vulnerability that is bringing the country close to the brink of needing to do heavy rations.

Aguilar explained that the  reservoir’s rapid decline threatens the “already battered quality of life of Venezuelans.”

[adrotate group=”7″]Miguel Lara, former director of the Interconnected Systems Planning Office, warned that “the worst is yet to come,” adding that the government will have to disconnect electrical loads in larger volumes, and also deepen power rationing in the country.

On Saturday, President Nicolas Maduro announced the country’s public administration will not work during Holy Week as a measure to ration the electricity supply. The national government also reduced working hours in the public sector for the same purpose.

Sabrina Martín Sabrina Martín

Sabrina Martín is a Venezuelan journalist, commentator, and editor based in Valencia with experience in corporate communication. Follow @SabrinaMartinR.