The Miami Herald
November 1, 2000

Cuba announces boost in power supply, end to blackouts

 Agence France-Presse

 HAVANA -- After decades of long, scheduled blackouts caused by electricity
 shortages, Cubans woke up to the news Tuesday from officials who announced
 the lights -- and the refrigerator and TV -- were on to stay.

 ``Today, the island's [power] generating capacity is above national demand, aided
 by the modernization of our power plants and the country's energy conservation
 program'' Radio Rebelde said.


 Cubans grew so used to regularly scheduled power outages that during the
 toughest years, in 1993 and 1994, they called their sporadic moments of
 electrical supply ``white-ons.''

 While progress since then appears to have been made, top officials remain
 cautious about the power supply. The modernization ``does not mean that power
 cuts might not take place in some areas, Cuban towns and even provinces due to
 technical difficulties and other unexpected developments'' the radio said, quoting
 Roberto González, top electricity expert at the Ministry of Basic Industries.

 President Fidel Castro on Monday signed a cooperation deal with Venezuela that
 should end Cuba's chronic energy woes.

 The government of President Hugo Chávez agreed to provide the island with up to
 53,000 barrels per day of crude oil and derivatives financed by long-term credits.

 The 15 million tons of oil Havana imported annually from the former Soviet Union
 was slashed to less than half, and the country's power plants were not equipped
 to burn the high-sulfur heavy crude that Cuba produces domestically.


 Thanks to greater investment in oil exploration in Cuba -- with French financing --
 the government has raised its heavy crude production, while also adapting its
 power plants to burn domestic crude.

 This year, 70 percent of the oil needed for power generation will be local crude,
 according to government estimates.

 The country's attention to reducing energy consumption could also contribute to
 fewer blackouts, analysts said. The national electrical savings program, which
 maintains a staggered consumption schedule for residential and commercial
 users, is complemented by a substitution of low-energy household products,
 including light bulbs and appliances.