Drought hits hydroelectric dam, triggers energy crisis in Ecuador

QUITO, ECUADOR - The current drought has reduced waterlevels at the Paute dam, where the hydroelectric station provides 60 percent of Ecuador's electricity, triggering a severe energy crisis in the country, energy authorities said.

The National Center for Energy Control (Cenace) said water was currently flowing at 50 cubic meters per second, far below the dam's 120-cubic-meter capacity.

"If we do not start rationing energy use, we could be talking about new power cuts here," said Rene Morales, director of the Hidropaute hydroelectric station.

Although Cenace issued an alert last week in response to the shortages, there is no evidence consumers have reduced electricity use. The warning has even been ignored by the country's government departments, Radio Quito reported.

The ministries of Agriculture, Foreign Trade and Environment did not have any consumption reduction plan, it said.

Natural disasters had already caused problems for Ecuador's power production. For example, the eruption of the Tungurahua Volcano has halted production at the country's another major power station - Hydroagoyan.

Cenace director Gabriel Arguello said demand for electricity had risen by 7 or 8 percent in recent days. Ecuadorians voluntarily reduced consumption by 5 percent from October to January to ease power shortages, Arguello said.


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