Heavy rains force Edelca to open Guri sluice gates again

Monday, January 23, 2006

Venezuelan state hydro generation and transmission firm Edelca opened the sluice gates at its Guri, Caruachi and Macagua hydroelectric plants over the weekend due to recent heavy rains that increased the water level in the Guri reservoir above its maximum level, Edelca said in a statement.

Edelca opened the gates at Guri on Friday night as the water level reached over 271 meters above sea level and planned to open the gates at Caruachi and Macagua on Saturday.

Heavy off-season rains had forced Edecla to open the sluice gates in August 2005 for the first time in five years, the statement said.

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The three Guri plants generate about 46,650GWh a year, or 70% of all the electric power consumed in Venezuela, according to Caveinel, the private chamber the groups electricity companies in the country.

The coming year looks promising for Edelca in terms of hydro generation. On Friday morning national grid operator Opsis said Guri had reached a level 36% higher than its historical maximum. As a result companies connected to the grid can start buying additional hydro power at a discount.

Venezuela suffered 86 major power failures in 2005 against only 52 in 2004. However, not only is plenty of hydro power available nowadays, but a slowdown in demand growth from 8.6% in 2005 to projected growth of only 7.1% in 2006 makes a repeat of last year's events unlikely.

To January 22 there had been only one major failure this year compared to four for the same period in 2005. In addition, the government has started operations of new transmission and distribution works over the last two months to improve the reliability of the system.