Monday, January 15, 2007

 

Cuba: No More Blackouts?

The Cuban power industry produced the economy┬┤s most outstanding achievement in 2006: the elimination by 90 per cent of damaging and annoying electricity shortages.

In less than a year, over 1,000 Megawatts of generating capacity have been installed. The electrogen groups responsible for the increase were distributed in 116 of the 169 municipalities of the island.

Investment in the diesel power generators (for 1,311 MW) is practically completed. They will supply all the needed electricity in the hours of highest demand.

The annual report of the Ministry of Basic Industry confirmed that 6,301 electrogen groups have arrived in the country. Of that figure, 3,798 generators are already in operation.

But equipment, together with more oil and gas production cannot alone do the trick of covering the country┬┤s energy demand.

The power grid, poles and wiring have been an important source of electricity losses. In 2006 total losses were reduced from 18 to 11 per cent. The rehabilitation of networks will cost 262 million dollars but it will allow to considerably reduce expenses and improve the quality of electricity supply.

Over the last year, 67,319 old poles were changed for new ones, transformer capacity was increased in 10,400 of those units and new wiring was installed at residential inlets.

Also, 2.3 million breakers were installed in houses, to replace obsolete ones.

Domestic industry also increased transformer manufacturing, which together with imports permitted to install 11,700 new ones throughout the country.

More Household Appliances

Residential consumers account for 45 per cent of power consumption. However, in spite of the millions of new household appliances distributed over the last year, families only spent eight kilowatts per hour more a month than before having the new kitchenware.

Eight out of ten Cuban families can today cook with electricity, besides manufactured gas consumers and the gradual elimination of kerosene stoves, harmful for the environment and human health.

Millions of electric cookers and stoves have been sold, supported by credits given by the Banco Central de Cuba, amounting to 4.2 billion pesos.

In general, power consumption only grew by 7 per cent, while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) advanced 12.5 per cent the last year.

More Oil and Gas

Domestic oil and gas production achieved the record figure of 3.9 million tons, while exploration and drilling of new oil wells assure further growth in 2007.

In the promising Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, 16 parcels have been contracted by foreign enterprises covering an area of 30 thousand square kilometers, according to Yadira Garcia, Minister of that sector.

Over the last year 25 wells were drilled and work is underway in another eight, said the Cuban official.

Electricity produced with gas has an installed capacity of 405 Megawatts, most of which comes from Canadian joint venture Energas plants. In 2007, 70 MW more are to be installed and continue to grow further in 2008.

As for alternative energy sources, Cuba has a potencial of at least 1,700 hours per year of solar radiation, which can be transformed in 6 kwh day per square meter. There are 7,000 solar panels already installed in the island. Energy from the wind is also beginning to be used.

Cuba looks ahead to the time when fossil energy is depleted, an example to be followed by most developing energy-dependent countries.
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