Energy sector authorities from Brazil were in Venezuela recently observing that country’s problems with a serious electricity shortfall that has resulted in rationing and rolling blackouts.
Venezuela has severely limited electricity resources. The country depends on a single hydroelectric power plant, known as Guri, for over 70% of its needs. And a drought has restricted that power plant’s generating capacity.
The government of Hugo Chavez says it is studying a suggestion by Brazil and other countries that would transform Venezuela into an importer of electricity.
That would mean that electricity would come from either Brazil or Colombia. Brazil has 2,200 kilometers of border with Venezuela. And although Brazil produces over 435 billion kWh of electricity annually, there is no direct link with Venezuela’s grid.
In fact, until the beginning of this year Brazil imported electricity from Venezuela for the state of Roraima, a state in the distant north that is not connected to the Brazilian national grid.
But since then, due to the drought, Venezuela has reduced its supply by around 25% – and Brazil has made up the difference by revving up two thermoelectric power plants in Boa Vista, the capital of the state.
As for Colombia, it has a 2,050 kilometer border with Venezuela and produces 50 billion kWh of electricity annually. Relations between the two countries have been dicey in the past, but a mutually beneficial relationship based on electricity could make them set aside some of their differences in the future.
Venezuela has vast oil and gas resources, which account for 90% of export revenue, 50% of all government revenue and 30% of GDP. The country is a textbook example of “Dutch disease.”
It has historically preferred to use its petroleum revenue to pay for imports rather than invest in a national industrial base with the result that almost all basic necessities come from abroad.
As for energy sources, it made a huge investment in the Guri dam between 1963 and 1986, never expecting the reservoir behind the dam to fall to less than 60% of capacity (at this moment it is very close to 50% of capacity).
The Venezuelan minister of Electrical Energy, Ali Rodriguez Araque, says that his country will now invest in other sources of energy and that importing electricity is possible.