35.1 C
Sunday, July 21, 2024

Chaos erupts as Ecuador suffers nationwide blackout

Decades of underinvestment in the power system have caught up with the country, its acting energy minister has said

The government of Ecuador has blamed decades of underinvestment for a nationwide blackout that hit the South American country on Wednesday.

The emergency was reportedly triggered by a failed transmission line, which caused a cascading malfunction and plunged the nation of 18 million into darkness for hours.

Public Works Minister Roberto Luque, who also serves as acting energy minister, said the outage started after 3:00 p.m. local time at the 230,000-volt Milagro-Zhoray connector and spread across the grid. By roughly 6:40 p.m., responders managed to restore coverage to some 95%.

In the intervening hours, power loss caused traffic chaos in large cities, such as Quito and Guayaquil. The capital’s subway system suspended operations. The Education Ministry announced that schools in larger communities would temporarily switch to remote teaching out of concerns for students’ safety.

The crisis, which the media says was the worst since the blackout of October 2016, was the result of some 20 years of insufficient funding of the energy sector, Luque said. A program launched in 2004 to boost the resilience of the grid has not been properly implemented, he told a briefing.

”For years we did not invest in these systems, and today we are experiencing the consequences,” he explained.

Luque said the emergency was the result of unusual and rare circumstances, which nevertheless demonstrated the fragility of Ecuador’s energy infrastructure. The country needs to put more funding into backup thermal power plants and renewables, he urged.

READ MORE: Power grid and airlines shut down in Nigeria as workers strike

In April, President Daniel Noboa declared an energy emergency amid a drought affecting Ecuador’s hydroelectric generation. This weekend, heavy rains produced a separate set of problems, when a large amount of washed-out sediment threatened to damage turbines at Coca Codo Sinclair and Agoyan. The facilities, which account for about a half of the country’s electricity output, had to be shut down.

June 20, 2024 at 07:03PM

Most Popular Articles