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News > Latin America

Drought Affects Energy Across Latin America, Not Just Venezuela

  • Venzuela’s Guri dam and hydroelectric power station at Bolivar, pictured in 2010 when drought affected reservoirs serving the plant.

    Venzuela’s Guri dam and hydroelectric power station at Bolivar, pictured in 2010 when drought affected reservoirs serving the plant. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 April 2016

The El Niño weather phenomenon brought months of droughts for Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Venzuela and Mexico.

Countries across the region are feeling the impact of droughts due to the meteorological phenomenon of El Niño. a weather pattern marked by surface warming in the Pacific Ocean, which often leads to hot, dry weather and rains in Asia, South, Central and North America.

In light of the extreme circumstances, many country's energy supplies, water resources and agricultural crops have been impacted by the dry weather conditions. 

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In Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Venezuela, droughts have resulted in a negative effect on hydroelectric power generation, while in Mexico and in the U.S. state of California the climate condition has forced officials to ration water. In California, water was so scarce officials implemented fines against people using more than the allotted amount of the vital fluid.

Earlier this month, the Colombian government prepared to ration electricity and was on the verge of scheduled blackouts after a campaign for voluntarily reducing consumption failed.

Colombia’s Ministry of Energy said the problem is that almost 70 percent of the country's energy is generated by hydroelectric plants that are susceptible to climate change.

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The drought has also hit power production at Brazil’s Itaipu hydro-powered dam and water levels at many other hydroelectric sites across the country have dropped to dangerously low levels. The lack of rain has hit Brazil’s main source of power, hydroelectric dams, forcing officials to turn to more expensive and more polluting thermoelectric plants.

The severe drought conditions have also affected water reserves at hydroelectric projects in Chile, which also relies heavily on this type of energy production for it 

Meanwhile, the Guri, Venezuela’s largest reservoir and one of the continent’s most important hydroelectric plants, is at a critical juncture, with water levels just over 5 feet or 1.60 meters above the point at which the dam will collapse, according to the Ministry of Electrical Energy.

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In efforts to address this, Venezuela has deployed a permanent team to a state-owned hydroelectric power plant, which has significantly diminished production due to drying water resources.The energy-saving measures carried out by the Venezuelan government include rationing out electricity for four hours for a total of 40 days.

Droughts resulting from the weather event have caused problems both in Latin America and Africa.

Meteorological predictions from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warn that extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts will likely see a steady increase, affecting the regions energy supply.

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