Cubans to Face 4-Hour Blackouts this Summer

Cubans will spend four hours daily without electricity for an indeterminate time that could last until August. Photo: EFE

By 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES — Electric power in Cuba is known for jumping from one crisis to another. It has only been a month since supply issues in May led to the suspension of work in non-essential businesses and now the Electrical Co. is warning that the Cubans will face four-hour daily blackouts.

“As reported on Saturday, June 19th, the technological limitations in the thermal generation blocks, together with the units that need maintenance, led to the recent breakdowns, and the fuel limitations for the generator groups also affected electricity service,” the state company said on June 23.

The different provincial delegations of the electricity company communicate daily the blackout zones and schedules in an impossible attempt to calm the population, which trembles at the possibility that the situation will continue during the excessively hot months of July and August, when, especially at certain times, it can be unbearable to live without a fan or air conditioner.

The fears are not unfounded. Lazaro Guerra Hernandez, technical director of the Electricity Company, said on television that “in the summer months, basically in August,” there could be better conditions to “cover the demand and minimize the effects on the electricity service.”

The engineer said the problems are caused by the limitations in the generating capacity of the thermal plants and engines that run on fuel, the Island’s major sources of energy.

“Five blocks have been designated to organize the service so as to, in some way, guarantee that each circuit is not affected for more than four hours,” he apologized.

The Electric Company assures that it is working “nonstop” to solve the breakdowns and apologizes for the inconvenience. However, this hasn’t appeased Cubans, who complain about a service that has become more expensive in recent times and whose quality is far from the minimum requirements.

At the beginning of the year, with the start of the Ordering Task* electricity rates shot up. Soon after they were lowered a little because of the widespread public discontent. The rates, in any case, have remained high for the majority of Cubans, even more so considering the frequent deficiencies of the services.  

The National Office for the Control of the Rational Use of Energy has been urging for almost two years to reduce consumption with the “Save Now” campaign, but the pandemic and prolonged stays at home have frequently prevented meeting the objectives. In any case, the majority of consumption comes from industries and not from small domestic consumers.

The lack of fuel, which arrives in smaller quantities from Venezuela despite constant shipments, is affecting electricity generation. Additionally, the plan to replace generation based on fuel with green energy is slow, even more so than in many other countries. Citizens have little opportunity to manage their own consumption with solar panels, due to the difficulties in importing them, and wind farms are a long-term strategy.

The Government intends to change its energy matrix by 2030 with the intention that 24% of the island’s energy (around 2,300 megawatts) will come from renewable sources, mainly from bioelectric plants and solar parks. Meanwhile, Cubans continue to live with the blackouts.

*Translator’s note: The so-called ‘Ordering Task’ (Tarea ordenamiento) is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries in the State sector (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in US dollars which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

3 thoughts on “Cubans to Face 4-Hour Blackouts this Summer

  • The majority of the world’s supply of solar panels were manufactured in China, Cuba’s biggest trading partner. So why is importing solar difficult for Cuba?

  • “The Electric Company assures that it is working “nonstop” to solve the breakdowns and apologizes for the inconvenience”

    “Nonstop” literally means working as fast and as motivated as that Cuban linemen on a hot pole wants to work. With a salary paid in pesos and no incentive for overtime work, that nonstop work can be a very unbearable, scorching hot, and a long sweltering wait for Cubans in their homes with no electricity to fan.

    Oh, and the Electric Company apologizes for the “inconvenience.” Inconvenience? Inconvenience occurs when the lights suddenly go dark for ten minutes perhaps after a rain storm with lightening. Happens all the time, is normal, and is an inconvenience when the power is suddenly and momentarily disrupted at home or in a business.

    But, a planned power outage on a daily basis during the Cuban scorching hot summer months when the temperatures with humidity can reach into the 40 degree Celsius for four hours is certainly not an inconvenience in any stretch of the imagination. It is unbearable. The temperatures and associated heat can be brutal and deadly.

    Canada, specifically the province of British Columbia, is unaccustomedly experiencing record setting heat but without the inconvenience of power outages. “B.C. heat wave shatters Canadian record for highest temperature ever recorded.” (CBC News, June 27, 2021).

    “Lytton, B.C., broke the record Sunday afternoon for the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada with a measurement of 46.6 C, according to Environment Canada.” (Ibid). For southern parts of Cuba, in the Oriente, in the province of Guantanamo temperatures like that are par for the course during the summer months. Now, Cubans have to bear those temperatures without the “luxury” of electricity to power their few fans and those fortune enough to power their air conditioners.

    The British Columbian government has provided some modicum of relief for citizens. Municipalities and districts across the province have opened cooling centers for those who don’t have air conditioning. Unused hockey arenas, recreational centers, any place where large groups of people can be accommodated are being opened up for residents to cool off from the unprecedented, unhealthy heat – free of charge. At least the government is doing something when adversary strikes.

    What would be appropriate for the Cuban government to do for its citizens in this powerless scenario? I do not know. However, there must be some positive solution so that Cuban citizens do not have to suffer misery on top of misery every time the Cuban government decides to implement a policy to better the state and directly “inconveniencing” the majority of Cuban citizens.

    Are tourist hotels, like the multitude in Varadero, and all tourist hotels strewn all over the island also part of this daily electrical power outage for four hours? One would think so with the following very technical pronouncement by Cuba’s electric power company. “ . . .the technological limitations in the thermal generation blocks, together with the units that need maintenance, led to the recent breakdowns, and the fuel limitations for the generator groups also affected electricity service,” the state company said on June 23.” Sounds serious for the state.

    Will tourists in these pricey hotels in the state also have to experience daily power outages like ordinary Cubans? I doubt it. The Cuban tourism Ministry knows full well no tourist must suffer any “inconvenience” (to borrow the Electric Company’s term), so I am guessing air conditioners at resorts will be running and humming as per usual on some power source derived outside the power grid in the state, but not used for the majority of Cubans.

    Perhaps allow ordinary Cubans during the power outages to rent hotel rooms at subsidized rates paid in the national currency, the Cuban peso, as a token of nationalism and heat relief to the citizenry during a time of extreme heat hardship. This idea is hard to fathom in a totalitarian state.

  • 62 years of sacrifice just to keep a minority of military families in power. Why doesn’t the Cuban dictatorship call a referendum where Cubans inside and outside Cuba can decide the future of the nation. There are too many Cubans who sacrificed the best years of their lives and today in the middle of a hot summer can’t sit in from a fan needless to say or AC, without even an aspirin for a common headache. The regime turned the fourth leading economy with rich, middle class and poor, into last place in Latin America with many people only thinking of how to leave. 62 years is a long time.

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