2009 Ecuador electricity crisis

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Shopping by candlelight in a Cuenca market during a power cut, November 24, 2009

The 2009 Ecuador electricity crisis was caused by a severe drought that depleted water levels at hydroelectric plants. Ecuador experienced rolling blackouts for two to six hours per day that lasted from November 2009 until January 2010.

Background[edit]

The electricity crisis arose from Ecuador's worst drought in 40 years, which began in September 2009.[1][2] Government experts attributed the drought to the El Nino phenomenon.[2] Because of the drought, water levels at the Paute River dam—which normally supplies 40% of Ecuador's power—were extremely low.[1] The reservoir's water level is normally 1,991 meters above sea level, but as of November 10 was only 1,968 meters above sea level.[1] The minimum level is 1,965 meters.[1] As of November 11, only two of the dam's 10 turbines were functioning.[1] Normally, the dam can supply up to 20,000 megawatts (MW), but the dam's output was only 4,000-5,000 MW as of November 11.[1]

Left: View of Calle Larga, Cuenca, at 6:33 pm. On this day, the scheduled blackout occurred earlier in the day. Right: View of Calle Larga, Cuenca, at 7:04 pm. On this day, there was a scheduled blackout from 7-10 pm.

Effects[edit]

Beginning November 5, rolling blackouts took place across Ecuador for two to six hours per day.[3] Government officials also urged citizens to conserve energy.[1] Economic losses from the blackouts are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars; factory output slowed, and storage of perishables was disrupted.[2]

On November 6, the government declared an emergency in the power sector, which was expected to "allow the Finance Ministry to seek to guarantee fuel imports for thermoelectric plants".[3] The government also agreed to purchase an additional 5,200 MW of electricity from Peru and Colombia.[4] Government officials aimed to end power rationing before Christmas.[4]

The power crisis led to criticism of the Correa administration's management of the power sector as water levels of the reservoirs became depleted.[2]

In mid-January 2010, the blackouts were "suspended indefinitely",[5] following increased water levels and the acquisition of several generators. In February, Ecuador stopped the import of electricity from Colombia and Peru.[citation needed]

References[edit]