Venezuela hopes to buy electricity from Colombia while it moves to restore power after widespread outages caused by a surge in demand, Electricity Minister Ali Rodriguez said Thursday.
Authorities have already restored 1,033 megawatts of capacity lost in several power plant failures this week as the national grid strained under the increasing needs of the expanding Venezuelan economy, Rodriguez said.
Speaking on state television, Rodriguez said that economic growth projections for the year had been revised upward to 4%-5% from an earlier estimate of 2%. A recent heat wave also contributed to consumption as Venezuelans turned on air conditioners for relief, he said.
Demand has increased from around 15,000 megawatts earlier in the year to nearly 16,800 megawatts in recent days, Rodriguez said.
He said the recent shortages haven’t approached the severity of those during the electricity crisis that Venezuela endured from late 2009 through mid-2010, when levels of the water that feeds the country’s hydroelectric plants dropped due to a drought, and the authorities imposed rationing measures and urged conservation.
The government also drew up plans to sharply reduce its reliance on hydropower, increasing use of thermoelectric power to utilize its oil and gas reserves. The target was to have nearly half of Venezuela’s energy come from thermoelectric power by 2015. On Thursday, Rodriguez said the government was moving forward with the effort but did not offer any further details.
Rodriguez said the government would continue a push it started last year to make widespread improvements in the power sector but cautioned that the plans “are not applied from night to day, they take certain time and also involve very high levels of investment.” Venezuela requires $3 billion for investment in the power sector this year, he said.
In a television appearance last month, Rodriguez estimated that at the current pace of consumption growth, Venezuela would have to increase capacity by 2,000 megawatts every year to meet the growing demand. He repeated that assertion Thursday, adding that if the trend continued it could lead to “a new crisis.”
On Thursday, he said that 164 megawatts had been restored to the Termozulia plant, which lost its natural gas supply after suspected Colombian guerillas bombed a pipeline that runs from Colombia to Venezuela. Local reports said the pipeline is used to deliver a daily average of 200 million cubic feet of natural gas to Venezuela.