Breakdowns and Excuses Used to Justify Cuba’s Multiple Blackouts

Some users report outages lasting 4 hours, and in some cases up to three times a day (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 September 2021 — The Cuban Electricity Union (UNE) has once again announced failures and problems in the generation system, a situation that is no longer news and that will cause more service cuts and blackouts in the coming days.

The state company issued a statement hours after several incidents occurred that caused “service disruptions” from 8 am on Wednesday. The “technological limitations and the breakdowns that occurred in both the thermal and distributed generation systems” prevented meeting the demand for electricity in the country, the note indicates.

In addition, the note adds, the situation was complicated by another failure, this time in the boiler, which caused the “unforeseen disconnection” of a unit at the Lidio Ramón Pérez thermoelectric plant, in Felton, in Mayarí (Holguín). The repairs will take four days, so the lack of electricity will last, although months of cuts and blackouts already prevent people from knowing when there is a new breakdown or if it is all the result of the disastrous electrical system of the Island.

After weeks of suffering, in the middle of summer, long blackouts that have even prevented Cubans from falling asleep, the UNE has decided to give explanations to users about the reasons that lead to this situation, among which stands out “the non-execution of the maintenance.”

Last Friday, the UNE released a note through the official press in which it reported the accumulation of problems that have led to the extreme situation experienced in the country since at least June of this year, although the electricity crises have been a constant on the Island over the last three decades.

The electricity monopoly argued that of the 19 generation units that the country owns, 16 are working “outside their maintenance cycles,” to which is added the extreme age of the thermoelectric park, with plants that far exceed the average useful life of a power plant. The US sanctions, which could not be lacking in the justifications, were also another of the reasons alleged by the UNE, which attributes to them the impossibility of accessing the international market under normal conditions or going into debt at the current time of economic crisis due to the pandemic.

However, the note ended with a call for optimism based on the fact that an end to the pandemic (which is not in sight in the short term) will allow the recovery of funds and solve the problems suffered by the national electricity system.

On this occasion, the UNE statement also wants to offer hope and assures that “putting unites 4 and 5 of the Antonio Maceo CTE, and unit 6 of the Diez de Octubre CTE into service will contribute to mitigating the cuts,” although he warned that these will continue to be scheduled in blocks of four hours and announced by the local press.

Cubans, however, maintain that blackouts are very frequently exceeding forecasts and that each of these cuts is repeated sometimes twice a day, causing days of even eight hours without electricity in different parts of the island.

In this context, last Monday the Government approved a resolution published in the Official Gazette, by means of which the importation of large electrical appliances considered high energy consumers was liberalized, including induction glass-ceramic cookers, with or without ovens, and air conditioners of great power.

The rule said that the decision is based on the new “policy approved for the prospective development of renewable sources and the rational use of energy,” although the UNE note this Wednesday has insisted on asking Cubans for rationality in the consumption in the residential sector, in addition to requesting restrictions in state companies.

“In reality, I do not understand, if the system is not capable of guaranteeing stable demand or the reliability of the generation, why open the possibility of importing household electrical appliances? After the explanations in the press, this is a great contradiction” says a clever reader of the State’s Granma newspaper.

Among the most plausible theories to explain the decision could be the State’s impossibility of guaranteeing the demand in the interior of the country. The lines to buy appliances and the speed at which they sell out, even in the case of expensive sales and in foreign exchange stores, would support this idea.


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