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Montevideo, September 22nd 2018 - 17:02 UTC

Heat wave in Argentina collapses power grid: thousands with no energy or water

Wednesday, December 18th 2013 - 07:15 UTC
Full article 67 comments
People out in the streets banging pots to protest (Photo: DYN) People out in the streets banging pots to protest (Photo: DYN)
Capitanich blamed the companies for not investing sufficient Capitanich blamed the companies for not investing sufficient
The situation won't improve unless temperatures drop below 32 degrees The situation won't improve unless temperatures drop below 32 degrees

People out in the streets banging pots and pans, or protesting burning tires and garbage containers in powerless neighborhoods, while an estimated 30.000 businesses in Buenos Aires City and metropolitan area are organizing demanding compensation for losses suffered because of the collapse of the power distribution system overwhelmed by an extraordinary heat wave with temperatures in the high thirties and low forties.

 Not even Government House or two crucial ministries directly responsible for the situation could escape the blackouts. Casa Rosada was left in the dark and with no air conditioning for ten minutes and the ministries of two most trusted and loyal officials, Axel Kicillof (Economy) and Julio De Vido (Federal Planning and Infrastructure) had to suspend all activities for over half an hour when temperature in Buenos Aires reached 36 degrees.

On Tuesday the Argentine System of Interconnection reported that a new record was established for the consumption of electrical power in a working day, when demand reached an afternoon high of 23,433 megawatts. The new benchmark knocked out Monday's record.

Nevertheless tens of thousands in the capital Buenos Aires and its suburbs, and in other main cities around the country, are without power or water, since many buildings depend on pumps for water pressure. Complaints are spreading over social networks and neighbors are joining street protests. Store keepers are furious over the loss of perishables when they were well stocked ahead of end of the year festivities.

Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich says blackouts will likely continue and puts the blame on energy companies, saying they've failed to invest in improvements. Government critics say years of energy subsidies and price freezes have left the industry unprofitable and with minimum investment.

Capitanich says the government has added 10,000 megawatts to the grid in the last decade, but the country's demand is outpacing the system's capacity.

With resignation in one of his many media appearances, Capitanich admitted that “when the temperature hits 32 degrees Celsius, we can expect to begin suffering blackouts; that is what the government power experts tell me”.

He also had to admit he was unaware that neighboring Uruguay, despite strained commercial relations, is supplying all the additional power the country can provide, and for that purpose is using all its thermal capacity.

The Cristina Fernandez administration has attributed the situation to several factors: the soaring temperatures that have been recorded across Argentina since last week; a higher level of industrial activity; and an improvement in the quality of life of citizens, which has led to increased use of air conditioning and similar cooling appliances.

The Ministry, headed by Julio De Vido assured that “the system is operating normally and has an additional reserves of 2500 megawatts.” But the department recommended “continuing the efficient use of electrical power, which spans from the use of low-energy light bulbs to the efficient utilisation of domestic appliances.”

The government declared an 'orange alert' because of the high temperatures which have spread to the whole country and neighboring Uruguay and Chile, which are expected to again peak consumption with collateral blackouts.

Top Comments

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  • Redrow

    OK people so it's a bit hot and you are a tad thirsty, inflation is uncontrolled and there is widespread civil disorder, but remember we (say we) are sticking it to the pirate Brits and that is what really matters! Vote Cristina!

    Dec 18th, 2013 - 07:37 am 0
  • Be serious

    Kirchners power was off for 10 mins what's all the fuss about.

    Dec 18th, 2013 - 08:06 am 0
  • stick up your junta

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7nIGV6SpYI

    Dec 18th, 2013 - 09:48 am 0
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