El Niño puts Colombia on the edge of an energy crisis
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El Niño puts Colombia on the edge of an energy crisis

The impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon in Colombia has set alarm bells ringing as the country looks close to the beginning of forced energy rationing.

Unexpected damage at the country’s hydroelectric Guatapé dam, which provides around 10% of the country’s energy, has worsened the already worrying situation.

Furthermore, the heat and droughts have taken dam levels to their limits as  reserves was also drained. The result is an energy crisis that has forced the government of Juan Manuel Santos to make massive energy saving campaigns to avoid rationing.

Enough of an impact?

The campaign supported by the Mining and Energy Ministry has included a  bill reduction of 450 pesos for each kilowatt saved for the homes that managed to reduce consumption in March. Households failing to do so will be charged 450 pesos more for each kilowatt used.

Nonetheless, efforts have not made enough impact, as the ammount of energy saved by Colombia as a nation was not even half of five percent goal proposed by statistics company XM, which also suggested energy rationing from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for six weeks, La FM reports.

The lack of appropriate measures resulted in the resignation of Mining and Energy Minister, Tomás González. President Santos hasn’t named his replacement, and has currently appointed a temporary minister, Lorena Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez said that not even the heavy rains that the country experienced during the last week are going to be enough to avoid the rationing, El Espectador added. The minister has also emphasized that Colombians save more energy to reach the five percent total saving goal.

Last Wednesday was the day when Colombia saved the most energy, reaching 4,44 percent, according to the ministry, whose data shows that Bogotá is the city where the most energy is being saved, followed by the Caribbean coast.

Similar energy rationing happened in Colombia 24 years ago, daily El Tiempo reflects. Back then, current president Santos was the Minister for Commerce, and then president César Gaviria had to pass an energy rationing law that established periods of power outage. Gaviria even had to advance one hour the Colombian standard time to save energy.

Isagén sell-out

The crisis has presented itself at a difficult time for the government. Just weeks ago, Colombia sold Isagén, the main state-owned company dedicated to producinh energy in Colombia. It was sold to the Canadian multinational Brookfield for 6,48 trillion Colombian pesos, RCN Radio informed; money that will be used to fund the construction of roads and improve infrastructure across the country.

Yet Colombians are not happy: while people are asked to save energy and water, big multinational mining companies are allowed to waste huge amounts of liquid to continue their activities.