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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 in the past seven years and a growing shortage of natural gas has meant that the country is burning more crude oil and diesel to meet domestic power demand.

Venezuela remains acutely short of electricity. This is mainly due to incompetence and lack of maintenance. Because of all this, there have been frequent black-outs.

Venezuela's power demand has been estimated to have grown to 30GW. The country has an installed capacity of about 28GW. However, only 20.2GW is currently operational.

The latest additions to the working capacity in this country are a 180MW expansion of the Luis Zambrano thermo power plant in the state of Merida which began operations in July 2013, a 257MW expansion of the Fabricio Ojeda (La Vueltosa) hydro-power plant in Tachira state which came on stream in August 2013, and a total of about 200MW in expansions at several existing thermal power plants in other part of the country.

On Sept. 3, 2013, Venezuela had its worst black-out in many years as more than 70% of 18 states' supplies - 70% of Caracas - went down for a day; and in some parts of the country for over 36 hours. Immediately, President Maduro charged that the black-out resulted from "sabotage by the enemies" of Venezuela - he did not mention individuals, groups or countries responsible for such an act.

Weeks before that crisis, the state-owned and operated power company Corpoelec announced that it had hit its 100-day goal of bringing on-line 1GW of power generation after the start-up of the 360MW Unit-10 of the Simon Bolivar (Guri) mega hydro-electric plant in the state of Bolivar. Unit-10 had been brought back on stream after five months of repair work and testing, which cost 5bn bolivares (US$795mn).

With the incorporation of Unit-10, by late 2013 over 1.07GW had been brought on stream since then Electrical Energy Minister Jesse Chacon, a former Army Lt., announced his 100-day plan at the beginning of May, after Maduro had declared a state of emergency for the power sector for 90 days in April. The 100-day plan was also aimed at reducing 1GW worth of demand via energy efficiency initiatives to relieve stress on the national grid.

Corpoelec National Generation Commissioner Carlos Sanchez in late August 2013 said: "Work has been completed on Unit-10 and we continue to do repairs to Unit-2's stator which will allow us to add another 176MW of capacity in November [2013], and work on the supply of bars for Unit-5 was advancing substantially in order to reach 220MW in November".

Unit-11 entered a testing phase after levelling and preventative maintenance work had been finalised on July 13, 2013, while work to install a new stator on Unit-16 which was to increase installed capacity to 770MW from 630MW continued, according to Sanchez, who then added that work to replace flood gate cylinders and air conditioning system adjustments at Engine Rooms I and II had been completed in August of that year.

For political reasons in the run up to the parliamentary elections due on Dec. 6, President Maduro in August 2015 made tough General Luis Alfredo Motta Dominguez electrical energy minister to replace Rtd Lt Chacon. Motta on Aug. 3 had already replaced Chacon as CEO of Corpoelec. Chacon had failed to end power black-outs in many parts of the country and he had made a mess of his re-structuring of the state-owned utility.
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Publication:APS Review Downstream Trends
Geographic Code:3VENE
Date:Nov 9, 2015
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