Another Sign of Cuba's Progress
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Fri Nov 3 16:53:02 MST 2000
Cuba announces boost in power supply, end to blackouts
BY CARLOS BATISTA
HAVANA -- After decades of long, scheduled blackouts caused by electricity
shortages, Cubans woke up to the news Tuesday from officials who announced
the lights -- and the refrigerator and TV -- were on to stay.
``Today, the island's [power] generating capacity is above national demand,
aided by the modernization of our power plants and the country's energy
conservation program'' Radio Rebelde said.
Cubans grew so used to regularly scheduled power outages that during the
toughest years, in 1993 and 1994, they called their sporadic moments of
electrical supply ``white-ons.''
While progress since then appears to have been made, top officials remain
cautious about the power supply. The modernization ``does not mean that
power cuts might not take place in some areas, Cuban towns and even
provinces due to technical difficulties and other unexpected developments''
the radio said, quoting Roberto González, top electricity expert at the
Ministry of Basic Industries.
President Fidel Castro on Monday signed a cooperation deal with Venezuela
that should end Cuba's chronic energy woes.
The government of President Hugo Chávez agreed to provide the island with up
to 53,000 barrels per day of crude oil and derivatives financed by long-term
The 15 million tons of oil Havana imported annually from the former Soviet
Union was slashed to less than half, and the country's power plants were not
equipped to burn the high-sulfur heavy crude that Cuba produces
Thanks to greater investment in oil exploration in Cuba -- with French
financing -- the government has raised its heavy crude production, while
also adapting its power plants to burn domestic crude.
This year, 70 percent of the oil needed for power generation will be local
crude, according to government estimates.
The country's attention to reducing energy consumption could also contribute
to fewer blackouts, analysts said. The national electrical savings program,
which maintains a staggered consumption schedule for residential and
commercial users, is complemented by a substitution of low-energy household
products, including light bulbs and appliances.
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