Cuba announces boost in power supply, end to blackouts
BY CARLOS BATISTA
HAVANA -- After decades of long, scheduled blackouts caused by
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.