No end to energy rationing in Brazil

Brazil’s emergency energy rationing programme, which requires consumers to cut consumption by a fifth, will continue indefinitely, the country’s Minister of Mines and Energy said Tuesday. The programme that has been in effect since June 1 was originally scheduled to end in December.

“There is no term for it to end, not in November, not in any month, minister Jose Jorge told reporters in Rio de Janeiro. “We are accompanying the situation on a daily basis and we analyse [the situation] weekly. Everything depends on the rainfall.”

Brazil is dependent on hydroelectric dams for more than 90 per cent of its energy; record low rainfalls and a lack of investment in generation facilities and transmission lines has left the country facing the threat of massive periodic blackouts.

On the positive side, Jorge said the possibility of forced blackouts had been ruled out at least until September.

According to the Estado news agency, Electropaulo, Sao Paulo’s main electricity supplier, said it had registered a 30 per cent drop in electricity use last month. In Rio, the electric utility Light said 80 per cent of its customers had met their quotas for the mandated 20 per cent reduction.

Speaking in Brasilia earlier in the day, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said that the presidential elections in 2002 would not persuade him to end energy rationing should it still be necessary. “If I did that [ended rationing] I would not only be irresponsible but very stupid, because the press would immediately denounce that we were playing a trick,” said Cardoso.

The energy crisis has taken a heavy toll on Cardoso’s popularity in recent months and many here fear he might be inclined to ease up the rationing in order to be in a better position his preferred successor

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