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Ecuador grappling with energy crisis

By SERGIO HELD in Bogota | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-11-07 10:25
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The government of Ecuador, which is navigating a nationwide energy crisis with rolling blackouts scheduled to last until late next month, is taking drastic steps including daytime power outages to make do with the limited supply of electricity in the Andean country.

The need for energy rationing is the result of a combination of lack of rain in the Amazon Basin that powers the country's main hydroelectric plants, and an unusually high energy demand.

"Ecuador faces low flows in tributaries in the Amazon region and a delay in rainfall in the western region due to the impact of the El Nino phenomenon," the government said. "There are limitations on the sale of energy by Colombia and a considerable increase in its cost. In addition, the country is registering an unusual growth in energy demand."

The blackouts and shortages are directly affecting people and businesses across Ecuador, and are forcing the Ministry of Energy and Mines to continue "an emergency in the electricity sector" since Oct 18.

Ecuador's energy sector was caught unprepared by a much stronger-than-expected El Nino and an unusual increase in demand for energy, said Andres Rebolledo, executive director of the Latin American Energy Organization.

These factors, "together with difficulties in bringing some renewable generation projects to fruition … led to an imbalance in the market", he said.

"Measures such as calling for energy savings, reaching agreements with neighboring countries and looking to the market for emergency generation are appropriate in a situation like this," said Rebolledo, who served as Chile's energy minister.

The drought in the Amazon Basin started before El Nino got underway and was caused by a combination of global warming and deforestation, which degrades the crucial biotic pump function of the forest, said Rob de Laet, a member of the EcoRestoration Alliance and fellow at the Global Ever-Greening Alliance.

Colombia has agreed to supply 450 megawatts of energy to Ecuador, the maximum it can provide through the existing electricity interconnection line between the two countries.

"We will hold binational working groups to define the form of payment, which could be with energy or oil," Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso said after a meeting with his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro.

Peru, Ecuador's other neighbor, will also export energy to Ecuador during the current emergency.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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