Venezuela continues to shape its own version of the dark ages. It has taken the vice-president, Jorge Arreaza, and the Minister of Electricity, Jesse Chacon announced a new “energy savings plan” for the public and private sector, due to increased energy consumption.
Apparently, Venezuela cannot take the heat from the latest increase in energy demand. Both Ministers were careful not to use the word ‘rationing’ because of its negative connotations. But there is no other way to explain it.
While this situation continues, public offices will be open six consecutive hours a day, from 7:30 to 1:30 in the afternoon. In addition, the government is asking the private sector to generate their own electricity during periods of high consumption. That is because despite the greatness with which many see government in Venezuela, it cannot even provide electricity to meet the demands of businesses and private citizens.
People have been urged to regulate their air conditioners to not lower than 22 degrees Celsius, even though outside temperatures get as hot as 44 degrees. The government wants to cut consumption by at least 20%, and people who do not comply may be punished for violating the rules.
After self-declaring a socialist regime in 2007, Venezuela decided to nationalize electricity companies, which led to a sharp decline in service. The cuts are more frequent since then and the number of requests issued by the government to reduce energy consumption have become more frequent.
The decision adds another setback to the already dire Venezuelan life. People already face difficulties when trying to go to the supermarkets and pharmacies without being victims of crime.
According to Miguel Lara, former manager of the Office of Operations and Planning, the country is not prepared to handle surges in demand. Chavez apparently invested heavily to gain capacity of between 23,000 and 33,000 megawatts of generation capacity, but in practice the grid cannot even support a 16,000 megawatts increase.
The question that a lot of people ask is, what happened to all the megawatts that were aggregated to the system?
“What was installed is not operating either because it is old or has no fuel,” said Lara. Chavez’s management has failed to increase oil production, which is where the gas is obtained to operate the electricity grid.
Another reason for the lack of energy is attributed to corrupt business practices between Derwick, a privately held company and the Venezuelan government. Apparently, Derwick manipulates the prices of the equipment it sells, which somehow results in failure to provide enough energy to the country.
Venezuelan’s are also waiting for the opening of the Macagua hydroelectric plant, which the government promised to open in 2007, but whose operation has been delayed until now.