By the Potencia correspondent

Since the end of 2012 the prospect of energy rationing has threatened Brazil as the government had to face the consequences of a severe drought. The rain shortage took the reservoirs to their lowest level in ten years. The water stored in the reservoirs was mainly used to supply the cities so electricity production was seriously reduced.

The lack of rain seriously damaged the energy supply. Although the country’s energy system is going through an upgrade process with a rising number of wind farms and solar plants, the contribution from hydropower stations to the overall production is still very important. In fact, Brazil operates, together with Paraguay, the Itaipu dam, which is the second largest dam in the world.

Thankfully the fear of power outage was reduced when the Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff said in January that the country “has and will have more than enough energy for the present and future times, without any risk of rationing”.

AFP news agency said that the Brazilian government has resorted to increasing production at the thermoelectric plants to compensate for the low hydro output.

Currently Brazil is able to accommodate the impact of a rain shortage because ein recent years the country has been working to increase its capability to produce energy.

Nowadays the country’s installed capacity is around 121,000 MW according to the AFP report. Thanks to this output Brazil is expected to avoid an energy crisis like the one that occurred back in 2001, when the government had to order energy rationing because of a shortage of rain.

The government is carrying out significant investments in Brazi’s energy system that will double electricity capacity in the coming 15 years. The support of wind powers will play a key role to this objective and there are several projects underway. Nuclear and thermal plants will also make important contributions to the energy system.

Now that the rainy season has finally arrived the Brazilian government will also be able to gradually reduce the use of fossil fuel energy sources.

President Roussef recently signed a decree that cuts this year’s energy tariffs for householders and companies. The Brazilian homes will have discounts of 18 per cent on their electricity bills, while the discount industrial, trade and agriculture consumers will be 32 per cent.

The power outage fears may be lessening in Brazil but other Latin American countries are still at risk.

In Venezuela, for example, in the first two weeks of 2013 there were 55 power outages just in Caracas. Local daily El Nacional said that the number of the most recent power outages in the country’s capital city was higher than the ones that happened in the whole of 2012, when there were 40 power outages in total.

Professor José Manuel Aller, who works at Simón Bolívar University, told the newspaper that power outage is not a problem of “rationing energy production but a problem of energy distribution and lack of maintenance” of the electricity networks.

In Argentina the high temperatures this summer reached 40 degrees centigrade in Buenos Aires. This fact has resulted in power outages, mainly provoked by the overloading of the electricity grid. The massive demand for air conditioning devices, fans and other devices were the cause of the overload.

The minister of Planning of the Argentinean government, Julio De Vido, said that within the next six months there will be works to improve the distribution networks in Buenos Aires, with the aim of reducing energy supply problems, local daily La Nación reported.

Often power cuts are not due to lack of capacity but to the poor maintenance of the distribution networks. The Latin American countries are now facing the challenge of upgrading the network to cope with an ever-growing energy demand.

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