The Fault Has Been Fixed, but the Energy Deficit Prevents Power Returning to Part of Cuba

The provinces from Cienfuegos to Guantánamo are without service, the Electric Union reported. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2023 — A massive blackout left much of Cuba without electricity on Wednesday afternoon. It is the second consecutive day for countless residents of the eastern part of the Island and the fourth out of the last ten days. Around 8 at night, the fault had been solved but the energy deficit prevented the return of power in many places, according to the general director of the Unión Eléctrica (UNE), Alfredo López.

The breakdown happened again on the 220 kilovolt line that connects Matanzas with Cienfuegos, leaving all customers up to Guantanamo without service, including industries, said hours before Yadier Ruiz, director of the Power Control office in Villa Clara.

López explained that, in the fragile state of the system, the large load transfer from West to East is causing situations like these. The failure of this Wednesday repeated the failure of previous days.

The director of the UNE confirmed that one of the Turkish pieces of equipment in the western area will soon move to Santiago de Cuba, an insistent demand from the eastern provinces for weeks, tired of being the ones that suffer the consequences most frequently of breakdowns and lack of energy.

That, added to the reincorporation of the Lidio Ramón Pérez thermoelectric plant, in Felton (Holguín) next month, when its maintenance ends, should improve the prospects for the eastern half of Cuba, although users are wary of promises that are never fulfilled.

“It’s been two days since we’ve been able to turn on the appliances in order to cook,” independent reporter Francisco Herodes Díaz explains from the city of Santiago de Cuba. “Just when we were getting used to having electricity again, we had another blackout.”

The situation is especially sensitive in areas of the country that depend on electricity for cooking food, because they don’t have a supply of manufactured gas or access to liquefied gas, which is distributed in tanks, or the ability to maintain a supply of firewood or coal.

Speaking on state television on February 16, the Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O’Levy, said that “about 250 million dollars a year” are needed for the network to work under “normal conditions,”not counting the cost of importing fuel. In 2022 alone, 1.7 billion dollars were spent on that.

After the fall in tourism revenues, resulting from the increase in U.S. sanctions during the Donald Trump Administration and the complications of the pandemic, spare parts purchases and maintenance became increasingly deficient, causing the availability of energy in Cuba to be 37% over installed capacity in the country.

The last two major anti-government protests took place in a context of widespread electricity crisis: on July 11, 2021 (11J) and at the end of September and early October 2022, after the passage of Hurricane Ian.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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