Measures include cutting the workday for public officials and inspecting malls and factories to ensure they meet reduced power consumption targets
Venezuela’s socialist government on Tuesday announced a nationwide electricity rationing plan to tackle a surge in demand caused by rising temperatures.
The measures include cutting the workday for public officials to six hours, asking private companies to boost energy efficiency and inspecting malls and factories to ensure they meet reduced power consumption targets.
“Within a week, power demand has risen 1,500 megawatts,” the electricity minister, Jesse Chacón, said on state TV. With demand at 18,000 megawatts, he said, “the system begins to have stability problems”.
Peak temperatures have risen to 34C (93F) in Caracas, the capital, and have hit 37C (99F) in the sweltering western city of Maracaibo.
The country’s average annual consumption per household is 5,878 kilowatt-hours, double the average of the region owing largely to sizable subsidies that allow consumers to run air conditioners with little regard to cost.
Power outages are common in the oil-rich country, which depends on hydroelectric dams for 64% of its generation.
President Nicolás Maduro’s critics say the problems are the result of under-investment in the sector since the late socialist leader Hugo Chávez nationalised much of the electrical system in 2007.
A drought in 2010 forced Chávez to institute a broad rationing plan that was widely unpopular, helping to push his popularity to the lowest level of his 14-year rule and crippling the country’s state-run mining industries.
On Monday local media reported blackouts in at least 10 of the country’s 24 states, putting pressure on an economy struggling with recession, high inflation and shortages of basic goods.
Maduro has blamed some blackouts on “sabotage”.