Cuba’s Daily Drama of Blackouts to Unimplemented Innovations

Customers in a Havana electronics store, in line to buy fans, to cool the night air and repel mosquitos. But the fans are useless when there is no electricity.

By Elías Amor Bravo, (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – La Guiteras plant has been incorporated into Cuba’s national electricity system after overcoming the failures that caused its shutdown, news that in any other country in the world would be inconsequential. But in Cuba, in this agonizing summer of 2022, in which the alumbrones [a word coined to mean periods when the lights are on] have become a daily event in the difficult coexistence on the Island, it’s great news when a thermoelectric power plant produces electricity.

And as the communist regime enjoys the propaganda and the legendary narrative of the events that happen in the country, the article published in the State newspaper Granma is not wasted and says something like “after about four days of uninterrupted work, in which more than 200 maintenance actions were carried out, the largest unitary bloc in the country went online after ten o’clock on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning it exceeded 200 MW.” That doesn’t fool anyone and isn’t a heroic deed. This is a brief description of the usual operation in these cases, by the way, not exclusive to La Guiteras, since the rest of the plants are the same, or worse.

Granma added that “the operators solved the localized breakdown in the boiler and the vacuum damage in the condenser-turbine, and eliminated the causes that led to high water consumption, the origin of the problem that forced the plant to stop.” This is one more example of the work of informational monitoring by the regime so that Cubans understand the official version of the origin of the blackouts and attribute them to short-term or specific causes, which are resolved in this way, when the national electricity system is really a victim of the prevailing economic model, and its destiny is linked to it. That is, in order to enjoy quality electricity again and continuously, it is necessary to implement structural changes that the regime doesn’t even want to talk about.

And as the Guiteras problem will promptly return, Granma says that “to achieve greater reliability, it will be necessary, as soon as possible, to carry out the proper cleaning of the boiler and eliminate all the defects that limit its efficiency.” (so, what have they done?) and adds in this regard that “the washing of the boiler requires a shutdown of approximately ten days to increase the load to 280 MW and prolong its permanence in the system, without unforeseen exits.” Thus, a shutdown of Guiteras and a return to the blackouts are foreseen.

The other news that coincides in time with the previous one is that, finally, Felton 1 is stable and contributing 230 MW to the national electricity system, with which it was synchronized last Thursday afternoon.

I repeat: This information tension of the regime with power plants that connect and disconnect, that stop and start, that work and collapse, etc., is unprecedented in other countries of the world, with a level of development lower than Cuba, where electricity doesn’t usually experience these continuous traumas. As if they were broadcasting a ballgame on a continuous basis, the regime has chosen this timely and effective information strategy, instead of explaining to Cubans the underlying problems that paralyze electricity service.

The closest they have come to that reference is the effects of the ‘blockade’ [i.e. the US embargo], but there is never talk of the aging of the power plants, their backward technology, the absence of parts and components, the absence of suppliers, the rates charged, the profitability, the lack of fuel and a long number of factors that make the electric model based on communism unfeasible, an obsolete ideology that has disappeared from all the countries in the world.

That Felton 1 has entered service is presented by Granma as another heroic feat, which required the “joint work of specialists from the Lidio Ramón Pérez power plant in Mayarí and the Company for the Maintenance of Power Plants, supported by the Revolutionary Air Force and various state entities, which had constant monitoring by the highest political authorities and the government of the country.”

Yes, you heard right: even the Revolutionary Air Force participated in this combat, with known results. After the visit of Díaz Canel and Raúl Castro, it became operational almost by magic, although, at a slow pace, as Granma recognized, at a time of the exacerbation of the energy emergency that the nation suffers.

So with the Guiteras and Felton 1 working, in reality Cubans observe that the blackouts continue, and many wonder what all this disinformation of the state press is for, when the only thing it produces is tension and anxiety, and it decentralizes the focus of the real problems of the nation.

And since there is no two without three, the press points out in another article that “the electro-energy sector is the one that innovates the most in Cuba,” and they are very calm, justified as they say by “the contribution of the members of ANIAR (National Association of Innovators and Rationalists) with more than 300 proposals, which solve objective [technology] problems in industry and services in the current context, marked by the intensification of the blockade, the persecution of foreign companies that trade with Cuba, the international economic crisis and the impossibility of acquiring parts and other essential supplies.”

The information in the article comes from statements by the president of the ANIAR. According to the president, “the solutions to the problems that arise in the industry and the immediacy to respond to unforeseen events and create alternatives to sustain the service, are due, to a large extent, to the work of the innovators in those areas, who are known to be responsible for the vitality of the National Electricity System.”

Here everyone manages as well as they can, or they leave, which in the Cuban case is even more difficult. But if the regime really wants to make people believe that this innovation activity is fundamental for the electricity sector, it’s completely wrong. This is one of the sectors of the economy in which technology plays a fundamental role in the improvement of production processes. Without technological updating and the corresponding investments, which must be in accord with ANIAR’s practice, it’s impossible to guarantee a stable functioning of the system’s structures and, most importantly, one that is profitable and sustainable. How are renewable energies going to come to Cuba if there isn’t enough technology and experience for its development?

The conclusion that can be drawn from all this is that the regime has decided to play with the electrical system and turn the daily drama of blackouts into something common, and Cubans have to adapt because there’s no other remedy. False. There is an alternative. Cubans know this and must fight for it. Of course, you can’t go very far by repairing what is already broken.

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

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