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Venezuela - The Power Sector.

Like most South American countries, Venezuela depends on hydro-electricity for the bulk of its power needs. But the drought this year and a growing shortage of natural gas means the country is burning more crude oil and diesel to meet domestic power demand. Yet Venezuela remains acutely short of electric power. Because of this and frequent black-outs, organisers were forced to relocate the country's premier Heavy Oil Congress from the eastern coastal city of Puerto La Cruz to the city of Porlamar on the island of Margarita just days before the Nov. 3-5 event was set to begin (see omt19Venz&GlobalProspNov19-09).

Now Venezuela has over 23 GW of installed generating capacity, up from 22.1 GW in 2005. Venezuela has the installed capacity to generate 100 bn kilowatthours (Bkwh), up from 99.2 Bkwh in 2005, and normally consumes 80 Bkwh (up from 73.4 Bkwh in 2005). The country has the capacity to generate 79 Bkwh of hydro-power, up from 74.3 Bkwh in 2005; but the current output is said to be less than half of this capacity. Before the drought, Venezuela used to be a net exporter of electricity, with the majority of exports sent to Brazil. But now there are no exports and Caracas was recently said to be asking if Brazil could supply southern Venezuela with some of its power.

State-owned firms dominate the power sector. The largest is Electrificacion del Caroni (EDELCA), a unit of the state-owned mining firm Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana (CVG). EDELCA normally supplies around 75% of Venezuela's power needs. There is a high degree of vertical integration in the power sector, with the largest generating companies also acting as the main distributors.

OPSIS is a state regulator of the sector and manages the national transmission grid. In 2007 the state nationalised La Electricidad de Caracas (EDC), which used to be majority-owned by AES of the US. EDC had been the largest private electricity generator in Venezuela, supplying around 10% of the country's power needs.

Hydro-electricity normally provides the bulk of Venezuela's power supply. The Caroni River in Guayana state has long been the centre of the country's hydro-power production. But the river's level has declined, causing a shortage of water supplies as well as power. EDELCA operates the 8,900 MW Guri (Raul Leoni) station of Caroni, the second-largest hydro-power plant in the world, after Itaipu on the Paraguay/Brazil border. EDELCA also operates the 2,900 MW Macagua and the 2,200 MW Caruachi plants in Caroni. EDELCA is building a fourth plant in Caroni, the 2,200 MW Tocoma dam, with scheduled completion in 2010.

In July 2009, Repsol/YPF agreed to sell to PDVSA for $85m its remaining shares in the power plant Termobarranca as part of a government move to nationalise the energy sector. PDVSA also bought for $100m Repsol's gas-drilling rights in Barranca.

Natural gas normally powers around half of thermal power generation in Venezuela, followed by fuel oil and diesel. There has been increasing investment in thermal capacity as a means to reduce reliance on hydro-power and utilise domestic hydrocarbon resources.

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Publication:APS Review Downstream Trends
Date:Nov 9, 2009
Words:517
Previous Article:The Energy Base Of Venezuela.
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