More than 400,000 affected by Argentina power cuts

The levels of energy demand in Argentina have been so high during the hottest days of summer that the South American nation has had to implement power cuts.

This warning has already been issued by the newly elected Minister of Energy and Mining, Juan Jose Aranguren (pictured), who said: "In the summer power cuts will continue." The same day, the former president of Shell declared an emergency in the country's electricity system.

With temperatures exceeding 33 degrees Celsius, power consumption climbed to a record high and more than 404,000 users were in the dark in late December.

In addition, nearly 30,000 users were without electricity in their homes in metropolitan areas because of the cuts, according to the energy regulator.

This situation has been repeated every year for several seasons now when temperatures soar, as a distribution network in crisis cannot cope with high levels of demand.

It is also a result of the financial deficit of the companies operating in the metropolitan areas, which rely on government funding and whose incomes were affected after more than a decade of frozen tariffs.

On December 30, 2015 consumption peaked at 23,727 MW, just 307 MW shy of the historical record of 24.034 MW, registered on January 20, 2014, according to a report in newspaper Diario Financiero.  

The authorities plan to restore the distribution system through a rate increase. This increase is not yet defined, but is expected to arrive in the first quarter of this year.

For now, the authorities have appealed to people to save energy to reduce the high levels of consumption.

In a radio interview, Aranguren asked citizens to "put thermostats and air conditioning equipment at 24 [degrees Celsius] and keep all doors and windows closed for maximum efficiency."

The official admitted that "it is likely that some of these days," the state should import energy "from neighboring countries such as Uruguay and Brazil" to prevent the collapse of the system.

The authorities have not yet defined measures to tackle the crisis. The energy minister mentioned the possibility of asking citizens to self-monitor their consumption and save energy.

There is a more drastic measure too. In Aranguren's words: "We're going to do preventive results for each particular court case," he said. That is to say, the government plans to define restrictions to prevent further damage to infrastructure, something that happens in times of extreme heat.

The cuts will be announced on the website of ENRE, the body that regulates the electricity sector.

A draft circulated for public offices calls for all public administration to have a plan to reduce consumption, the newspaper La Nacion said. It is expected that the same invitation was extended to the provinces.

"The state of the national electricity system is poor. I'm not here to alarm, but to recognize a reality and to take corrective measures that allow us to resolve the situation so that we have an adequate supply," said Aranguren.

Argentina is not the only South American country that has recently had such problems. 
Chile's Atacama region suffered power cuts last year due to flooding that affected the area.

The Chilean newspaper La Tercera said that over 10,000 customers could not receive energy supply at their homes.

Workers at electric company Emelat were deployed in the affected area to try to recover the electric supply. It arrived bit by bit to homes thanks to the installation of 500 kVA generators that were operating while Emelat's crew were struggling to bring the region's power plants back online.

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