Less Venezuelan Oil and More Power Cuts From January for Cubans

The Renesto Guevara thermoelectric power station in Santa Cruz del Norte, Mayabeque. (PresidenciaCuba/Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 February 2024 – While Reuters reports a reduction to 32,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan oil for Cuba in January, the Unión Eléctrica (UNE) forecasts a reduction of 945 megawatts (MW) at peak hours for Monday, which is equivalent to a third of the estimated national demand for the day. The population, however, fears that the reality will be even worse and that this Sunday’s situation will be repeated, when a deficit of 940 MW was declared and 1,109 MW were affected.

According to the state-owned company, unit 2 of the Santa Cruz thermoelectric plant (Mayabeque), unit 6 of Diez de Octubre (Camagüey), unit 2 of Felton (Holguín) and units 5 and 6 of Renté, in Santiago de Cuba, are out of order. In addition, units 8 of Mariel (Artemisa) and 4 of Cienfuegos are under maintenance, despite the shortcomings of the National Electricity System (SEN).

According to Reuters, Venezuelan fuel exports fell by 25 per cent overall in January from the previous month, to about 624,000 barrels per day (bpd), due to “power outages” affecting the main oil export terminal. What Havana received from Caracas in the same period – 32,000 bpd of crude, gasoline and fuel oil – was slightly above December’s amount, Reuters reports, but below last year’s average (56,000 bpd). All this amid US threats to re-impose sanctions on Nicolás Maduro’s regime if it does not comply with an agreement to promote a fair presidential election.

Another internet user, more sarcastic, claimed that “training for the summer blackouts started early”

Cubans, who are used to facing the worst blackout seasons during the summer due to the increase in consumption and the overloading of the SEN at that time of year, are worried when they see that the same thing happens in the middle of winter. “When summer arrives, it will be the end of us Cubans, because now, with lower temperatures,  the deficit is increasing every day,” said one user after the company’s announcement. Another, more sarcastic internet user claimed that “training for the summer blackouts started early.”

Many customers attribute the almost 1,000 MW deficit to the storm that hit the west and part of the centre of the island on Sunday, which caused part of the power and telephone lines to fall in some municipalities in the capital and even flooded streets in some provinces, such as Sancti Spíritus. However, the authorities have not reported any consequences in any of the thermoelectric plants in these regions.

The weather also does not justify what happened on January 26, when dozens of users reported blackouts across the island due to a shortfall of 1,010 MW.

According to an article published a few days ago in ’Granma’, electricity generation in Cuba consumes 61% of “the fuel available in the country”

With an obsolete infrastructure that has lacked investment and maintenance for decades and continually reports breakdowns and massive blackouts, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has claimed that it is working to reverse this situation. Its plan, however, convinces hardly anyone: by 2030, the SEN forecasts that 29% of energy will come from renewable sources, a figure it expects to be 100% by 2050, a totally unattainable goal due to the backlog in this sector, which currently covers less than 5% of energy demand.

According to an article published a few days ago in Granma, electricity generation in Cuba consumes 61% of “the fuels available in the country.” With domestic crude oil and natural gas, the UNE covers 54% of the demand, but the remaining 46% requires the import of fuel oil and diesel, which is equivalent to millions of dollars in foreign currency that the state does not have.

In addition, since 2014, when the regime took on the “strategy” of promoting clean energy generation and began to offer investment plans in its business portfolios to install photovoltaic parks, the implementation of clean generation sources has been minimal.

In parallel, fuel-fired generation has been declining in recent years with no other means to counter the shortfall. According to data published last May by the Office of Statistics and Information (Onei), between 2019 and 2023, domestic power generation fell by 24.5 per cent and the government has barely managed to contract a few Turkish patanas, (mobile power plants supplied from Turkey) which do not manage to compensate for the shortcomings of the SEN.

Translated by GH


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