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Suffering worst drought in decades, Costa Rica orders power rationing


Struck by the worst drought in five decades, Costa Rica announced an electricity rationing plan on Thursday, blaming a severe lack of rainfall that has hobbled hydroelectric plants.

The Central American nation, famed for its beaches and lush landscapes that power ecotourism normally, gets about 70 percent of its electricity supply from the plants.

State-run electricity company ICE has blamed the drought conditions partly on the weather phenomenon known as El Nino.

Roberto Quiros, ICE's electricity director, described water levels at main reservoirs as "critical," adding that the current El Nino is the most severe on record.

He also pointed to delays in contracted deliveries from private power plants.

The country last saw electricity rationing in 2007.

The power cuts, to be implemented next Monday, are scheduled to last up to three hours daily but will not affect hospitals, industry, or other high-voltage customers.

ICE is also asking residential users to reduce consumption as much as possible.

President Rodrigo Chaves has said he prays every day for rain, as his requests to purchase energy from Costa Rica's neighbors have proved difficult since power shortages have also hit the broader region.

Widespread power cuts blamed on a heat wave also hit Mexico earlier this week, in addition to similar problems in Colombia and Ecuador.

The lack of rains has accompanied unusually unpredictable wind patterns, ICE officials noted, which has hit supplies from wind farms.

This week, the company announced an alert signaling the possibility of rationing along with a so far unrealized forecast for imminent rainfall. Costa Rica's rainy season usually kicks off at the end of April.

An uptick in demand has further complicated ICE's ability to meet it. Official data for January showed a nine percent rise in electricity consumption compared to the same month last year.

(Cover image via CFP)

Source(s): Reuters
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