14ymedio, Havana, 30 July 2022 — The Felton thermoelectric power plant, located in Mayarí (Holguín), once again becomes a stressor for the Cuban government. This Thursday, a breakdown in the boiler of unit 1 caused its exit from the National Electrical System, while unit 2 remains disabled due to the large fire suffered at the beginning of July.
The energy colossus is again unusable, with the consequent balance of scheduled blackouts, without the officials who came to inspect the Felton plant agreeing on the date of a possible solution.
This Friday, the nonagenarian commander, Ramiro Valdés, and the Minister of Energy and Mines, Liván Arronte, along with the local governments, went to the plant to “confirm the causes of the breakdown in unit number 1” and know “the projections to put unit 2 into operation,” according to the provincial newspaper Ahora!
Valdés, who refuses to recognize the critical state of the plant, recommended “convening the best specialists in the country, mainly infrastructure builders, and having them full time in that function.”
He revealed the government’s annoyance with the delay in repairs and new incidents, which not only affect the population but also the administrative capacities of the State: “The nation invests one million dollars every three days in fuel to supply the generators that work before the exit of the thermoelectric plant,” he explained.
However, the head of Energy and Mines doesn’t share the urgency of Ramiro Valdés. Arronte assures that, since the fire of unit 2, “all the necessary companies” have been projecting repair schedules. So “we must not rush to give a time of completion.”
The minister admitted that, as for the unit destroyed by the fire, “virtually the entire boiler has to be dismantled; it’s a job that we have never done before.” To the difficulty of repairs is added the slow process of achieving the necessary “safety conditions,” since “the boiler was in a state of risk” that could lead to collapse.
According to Arronte, Felton already has 22 years of operation in its current state, which makes it necessary to do “a residual life study” of its machines. He added that numerous calculations and analyses are missing, in addition to a contact with the manufacturer of the boiler, to consider the total functionality of the thermoelectric plant.
Both Valdés and Arronte avoided detailing the recent breakdown of unit 1. However, the technical director of the thermoelectric plant, Euclides Rodríguez Mejías, explained to the local official press that “there was a leak near the upper thermal chamber, which is in the cooling process,” although, according to the operator, the causes of the breakage are not yet known.
“We predict that in the evening of this Friday or early hours of Saturday, that area can be accessed, because it’s a very warm area, with little air circulation, so you have to wait for it to cool down to make a diagnosis and then start the relevant work,” said Rodríguez Mejías.
Felton workers expect unit 1 to become operational this Sunday, while on Monday the dismantling of the boiler will begin, a “task that does not allow for errors,” due to the “damages that this gigantic structure already has.”
Slowness and precariousness at work characterize the repair process of Cuban thermoelectric plants, which aggravates the balance of blackouts already suffered by the population of the island. In the face of the crisis, local governments are implementing new programs to cut off electricity.
The governor of Havana, Reinaldo García Zapata, reported that new four-hour power outages are scheduled from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, every three days. The cuts will be made to “save fuel” and thus guarantee “fewer blackouts in the rest of the provinces, where during these months the population has assumed that burden as a result of the generation deficit and fuel shortage, exacerbated by the intensified blockade,” García said.
There will be no blackouts, according to the official, in the circuits linked to continuous production, water pumping and public health. García added that in the state workplaces “the waste” of electricity is evident, which has led to disciplinary measures. He also admitted that these measures will not be enough if they aren’t linked to a pattern of economic development that the country doesn’t yet have.
Breakdowns, lack of parts, old machines and historically awkward management of the energy sector further heat up the summer in Cuba. Night protests, increasingly frequent, are the only way to channel the despair of citizens, who are also overwhelmed by the lack of food and growing police repression.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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