14ymedio, Havana, 25 June 2021 — Electric power cannot ‘lift its head’ and jumps from one crisis to another. It has only been a month since supply issues in May led to the suspension of work in non-essential businesses and now the Electrical Union is warning that the Cubans will face four-hour daily blackouts.
“As reported on Saturday, the 19th of this month, the technological limitations in the thermal generation blocks, together with the units that need maintenance, led to the breakdowns that occurred in recent hours, and the limitations on the distribution of fuel to the generator groups of the distributed generation have affected electricity service,” the state company said on Wednesday.
The different provincial delegations of the electricity company communicate daily the regulated zones and schedules in an impossible attempt to calm the population, which trembles at the possibility that the situation will continue during July and August, months with infernal heat when, especially at certain times, it can be unbreathable to live without a fan or air conditioner.
The fears are not unfounded. Lázaro Guerra Hernández, technical director of the Electricity Union, said on television that “in the summer months, basically in August,” there could be better conditions to “cover the demand and minimize the effects on the electricity service.”
The engineer argued that the problems are caused by the limitations in the generation capacity of thermal plants and engines that run on fuel, the Island’s major sources of energy.
“Five blocks have been designated to organize the service so as to, in some way, guarantee that each circuit is not affected for more than four hours,” he apologized.
The Electricity Union assures that it is working “uninterruptedly” to solve the breakdowns and apologizes for the inconvenience, but none of this has appeased Cubans, who complain about a service that has become more expensive in recent times and whose quality is far from the minimum requirements.
At the beginning of the year, with the start of the Ordering Task,* the rise in the electricity rates came into force, which was lower than initially expected precisely because of the discomfort raised by the announced figures. The amounts, in any case, have remained high for the majority of Cubans, even more so considering the frequent problems in receiving supplies.
The National Office for the Control of the Rational Use of Energy has been urging for almost two years to reduce consumption with the “Save Now” campaign, but the pandemic and prolonged stays at home have frequently prevented meeting the objectives. The majority of consumption comes, in any case, from industries and not from small consumers.
The lack of fuel, which arrives in smaller quantities from Venezuela despite constant shipments, is affecting electricity generation and the plan to replace production with green energy is slow, even more so than in many other countries, since that citizens have little opportunity to manage their own consumption with solar panels, due to the difficulties in importing them, and wind farms are a long-term strategy.
The Government intends to change its energy matrix by 2030 with the intention that 2% of the island’s energy (around 2,300 megawatts) will come from renewable sources, mainly from bioelectric plants and solar parks. Meanwhile, Cubans continue to live with the blackouts.
*Translator’s note: The so-called ‘Ordering Task’ (Tarea ordenamiento) is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others.
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