The lack of rain in Ecuador and problems in the thermal power sector have resulted in a national power shortage and the likelihood of rationing being introduced next week, an official at the National Energy Control Center (Cenace), said on Friday.

The government is planning to reduce national energy consumption by ten per cent.

The manager of Quito’s electric distribution company and a member of energy administrator Cenace’s board, Hernan Andino, told the Reuters news agency that the introduction of rationing was “unquestionable”.

“There is an order that ten per cent (of national consumption) must be cut during 12 hours (daily),” he explained.

Ecuador’s capital, Quito, could expect planned outages of between three and five hours daily, while areas serviced by distributors that don’t have their own electric plants could face cuts of up to 12 hours, he said.

Ecuador’s dry season runs from about October to January, where little rain falls in the Andean highlands, which in years past led the government to ration electricity in times of drought.

“The calendars and sectors will be known next week. (Rationing) could continue beyond December, because the drought will go until the end of February,” Andino said.

The country’s biggest hydroelectric plant, Paute, was operating near critical levels on Friday, with water levels at 1 972.3 meters (6 470 feet) above sea level, just 2 meters (6 feet) above the plant’s valid operating level.

Ecuador’s electric sector is also plagued by problems in thermal generation. According to Cenace, several plants aren’t producing due to a lack of fuel, while others are under repair.