Venezuela electricity conservation fails

Venezuela was going to cut 20 percent of its electricity consumption in a vast consciousness-raising exercise. Instead, electricity consumption is flat year-over-year as small consumers swamp the huge savings imposed on heavy industry.

The breakdown, utility by utility:

Peak demand, jan and feb y-o-y

Source: Centro Nacional de Gestion monthly reports

electricity consumption jan and feb y-o-y

Source: Centro Nacional de Gestión monthly reports

To explain:
Cadafe is the country’s biggest utility, handling 3 million customers, most of them unmetered small businesses and homes in low-income neighborhoods. Their consumption and peak demand rose year-over-year.

Edelca is the utility that handles the biggest users, such as steel mills, aluminum smelters, and municipal water districts. Their consumption and peak demand are down enough to balance out the increased consumption among most other utilities.

EDC is Caracas’s utility. There was a bit of savings there in January. Flat consumption in February. March, which hasn’t been released yet, will very likely show increased consumption year-over-year, as a heat wave caused demand to rise. (Air conditioning is probably the biggest single energy user in Caracas.)

Enelven is the utility for Maracaibo, the second-largest city. They actually have a relatively smart version of rationing there, in which neighborhoods are excepted from rolling blackouts for the week if in the prior week they saved at least 10% of their power. Sadly, some smarts haven’t been enough to save electricity, as electricity use surged year-over-year.

Enelval, which covers the industrial city of Valencia, predictably boosted energy use. Factories subjected to unpredictable blackouts are working longer hours to make up for the interruptions, and homes have their air conditioning and refrigerators turned up so when the lights go out, they can stay fresh for a while.

Short version: the heavy industry cuts saved our butts this year. We’ll see if power-plant construction can do the same next year.

(March numbers should be coming soon; I’ll update at that point.)

5 thoughts on “Venezuela electricity conservation fails

  1. otto

    It’s a macro-given that higher electricity demand is very closely tied to economic growth, so leaving aside the creaking electricity infrastructure for a moment (it’s clearly pisspoor and has been badly managed), the rise in electricity demand amongst consumers points to their economic wellbeing, right?

    Good time to be a consumer in Vzla, it seems.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      OK, my point was pretty simple — that it was the basic industries that saved our butts this year, and it makes me worry about the future. Normally when there’s an energy crisis, one of the upsides is that people install little energy-saving gadgets (low-flow showerheads, water-heater timers) and develop energy-saving habits (watch one television at a time, close the door when the air conditioning is on) but for a variety of reasons, that hasn’t happened here.

      As far as quality of life, Otto, you have a point — the appliances that are consuming all this power are generally there because people want them. I don’t begrudge the people of Maracaibo (thermal sensation often 50 degrees C) their air conditioning.

      However, the conservation program was so badly designed that people’s quality of life has suffered even while their electricity use has gone up. Of course people use more energy in air conditioning and refrigeration when they face unpredictable blackouts. Of course people leave all three televisions turned on when they have power, since they’re already “doing their bit” by putting up with a couple hours a day without power.

      And in response to your second comment: yes, Venezuelans also buy a lot of phones, clothing and footwear. However the impact on the wider quality of life is much lower than the impact of overconsumption of fuel and electricity.

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