Waning hydroelectric power output leads to four-day workweek in Venezuela

Guri Hydropower Project

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has mandated a four-day workweek for all public sector employees while the South American country copes with severely reduced generation from its hydroelectric plants amidst drought.

Speaking in an address on state television yesterday, Maduro said Fridays will be considered a holiday for a 60-day period in an effort to avoid energy rationing. Maduro also recently extended the government's Easter holiday to a full week in an effort to reduce power consumption.

"With maximum collaboration from all Venezuelans, we must embrace a plan to overcome this difficult period of great risk," Maduro said. "We're going to have long weekends, so we need public and state workers to increase their output so it doesn't affect productivity."

Maduro has also started forcing large consumers of energy -- including malls, hotels, and other businesses -- to generate some of their own energy to avoid outages.

The plan is being panned by many Venezuelans, who say Maduro's plan will only further cripple what is already an ailing economy by limiting access to government services and forcing public sector consumers to install generators.

Hydropower accounts for 14.6 GW, or about 73%, of Venezuela's energy supply, according to World Energy Council data. Much of that energy comes from the 10.2-GW Guri hydro project, which ranks amongst the world's largest.

However, water levels have fallen so low behind the plant's massive dam that the remaining pockets of water in the reservoir are unable to reach the powerhouse. Minister of Energy Luis Motta said earlier this week that the country has begun dredging in an attempt to direct water to the turbines.

For more news from Latin America, visit here.

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