14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, Camagüey, 20 February 2018 — Darkness and silence envelops the nights in the city of Camagüey since the fire at the 10 de Octubre Thermoelectric Company, in Nuevitas, on 25 January. Almost a month later, blackouts and annoyance continue to affect residents.
Brigades from various parts of the country are working under the direction of the Electric Union to repair the plant’s three power-generation blocks, which supply a total of 360 megawatts. However, so far none of them have been restored and the municipality of Nuevitas is mainly supplied with generators located in the town.
According to sources from the sector consulted by 14ymedio, the complexity of the work is great, since along with the replacement of what was damaged by the fire, a security review of the equipment is being undertaken and “some unforeseen events” have arisen in the process. The work is now forecast not to be completed until summer.
In the city of Camagüey, the blackouts, which at first were sporadic and of short duration, have become an almost daily occurrence lasting several hours.
“The worst thing is that they almost always happen when it’s time to cook,” laments Hermida Suárez who lives in the La Guernica neighborhood. “At that time of the day I have my grandchildren watching television while we prepare the food.”
Many Camagüey families cook with electricity after the Energy Revolution promoted by Fidel Castro at the beginning of this century. The program included the sale of electric cooking appliances at subsidized prices, to replace equipment that used kerosene. In addition, in 2016, thousands of induction cookers were also sold in the province.
The thermoelectric towers stand out against the blue sky without their usual trails of smoke and the absence of the humming of the generators raises daily fears of a new round of blackouts.
“The cuts in the electric service are not programmed, they occur when the demand exceeds the delivery capacity of the national network,” an employee of the Electric Company of Camagüey, who preferred anonymity, explains to 14ymedio. “The shutdown of the Nuevitas thermoelectric plant complicates everything,” he concludes.
According to the official press, the fire at the plant was caused by electrical overheating. The flames reached the system of buried cables and switches, which makes restoration more difficult.
Private businesses have been especially affected. Cafeterias, service outlets and mobile phone repair points are among the hardest hit by the lack of power.
“I’m a barber and all the equipment I use is electric,” says Ariel, in the town of Vertientes. “I bought an oil-powered electrical generator thinking about the hurricanes but now it’s exactly what I need with these blackouts.”
Last September the national electrical system suffered the onslaught of Hurricane Irma which caused numerous technological breakdowns in the 10 de Octubre Thermoelectric plant, but these were repaired in a short time. In 2014 the industry had completed capital repairs that cost more than 56 million pesos.
The Nuevitas generating plant runs off of Cuban crude, which has a higher sulfur content than imported oil. The quality of the raw material not only increases the combustion gas emissions, but also requires more frequent maintenance of the infrastructure.
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