Who Will Be Left Without Electricity and For What Costa Rican Authorities Say

    Last Monday night, ICE announced that the lack of rain and low wind speeds cause lower energy production

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    Since April 19th, 2007, 17 years ago, Costa Rica has not been going through a situation like the current one: low electricity production could cause electricity rationing on some days.

    On the night of this past Monday, April 6th, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced that the lack of rain and low wind speeds cause less production of hydroelectric and wind energy. For this reason, soon in the coming days the demand could be greater than the supply.

    ICE has remained secretive and has not provided further details since Monday night, when it announced the possible cuts. However, the protocol for rationing establishes some general rules for this type of event.

    When will the electricity cuts be made?

    It is not yet final that the cuts will be made. At this time, rationing depends on the evolution of resources: rain and wind.The protocol for this type of event states that when the resources in reservoirs and fuels to produce electricity are only sufficient for an autonomy of 10 calendar days, a first alert must be issued about the risk of an energy deficit and, consequently, potential rationing. This is what happened on Monday night.

    If the situation continues and the autonomy reaches five calendar days, the rationing mechanisms must be activated.“Between the day that the autonomy of 10 calendar days is presented and the autonomy of five calendar days, the time that may pass is uncertain, since it will depend on the meteorological conditions and other prevailing resources,” says the document called Procedure Coordination of Rationing.

    If ICE issued an Official Rationing Execution Statement, there would be no return, that is, even if the weather conditions improve in five days, the cutback plan must begin.When there are sufficient resources again, ICE must issue a new statement to announce the termination.

    The electricity manager of ICE, Roberto Quirós, said that if current conditions remain, “during the following days the start of rationing and operational details would be communicated.”

    Who will be left without electricity?

    If rationing were to be implemented, it would not affect the industrial sector, high-voltage customers, hospitals and main health centers.The first customers to be affected by the cuts would be residential customers or circuits (houses).

    The second group in order would be the circuits influenced by industrial, commercial and general loads such as government offices, ministries, municipalities, autonomous institutions and churches, among others.

    The last group whose service would be temporarily suspended would be the circuits considered non-interruptible: public services, telecommunications, hospitals, airports, aqueducts, firefighters, fuel pumping stations, among others.

    How long will the cuts take?

    The Public Services Regulatory Authority (Aresep) indicated that the distribution companies and ICE are responsible for establishing the appropriate mechanisms to schedule rationing and inform customers.

    According to the authority, distribution companies must inform their subscribers and users, through various means, about the duration, frequency and location of rationing scheduled in their coverage area. They must inform at least eight days in advance.Roberto Quirós said that for this occasion ICE guarantees that the cuts will not take more than two hours at a time.

    Why did the country reach this situation?

    The decrease in rain and wind causes the country to produce less energy in hydroelectric and wind plants. These are the two main sources of energy in Costa Rica.

    ICE reported that the effects of the El Niño climate phenomenon “are extreme and caused a critical decrease in the flows of hydroelectric plants on the Central American isthmus.”

    On the other hand, as the situation is similar in the region, there is no possibility of importing energy.In addition, ICE reported non-compliance by suppliers of thermal plants, in which electricity is produced by burning fuel.

    “We have carried out all necessary efforts to avoid this condition; However, the levels of rain and wind were reduced to figures that we have not recorded before,” said Roberto Quirós.

    Another example of the decrease in rain and wind is the drop in the production and use of renewable energy in Costa Rica. Before 2023, more than 98% of the electricity consumed in the country came from renewable sources: such as water or wind power.

    However, starting that same year, clean energy was reduced and production in thermal plants increased, which is much more polluting. That percentage, which was above 98% for almost a decade and which placed Costa Rica as a world benchmark, is expected to drop to 93% by 2025, while the thermal increases.

    How to save electricity in homes?

    Consumers can also help lower national electricity consumption, that is, demand.

    Aresep provided a series of recommendations for these days:

    • Do not use air conditioning during peak hours (10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) on weekdays
    • Avoid cooking, ironing or washing during peak hours
    • Turn off office lights during lunch breaks
    • If you have a Thermo shower, take short baths (no more than 5 minutes)
    • Turn on only the lights you need
    • Disconnect electrical devices that you do not use, as they continue to consume energy when connected.
    • Take advantage of the remaining heat in the kitchen
    • Keep the refrigerator door closed and make sure it seals tightly
    • Use the washer/dryer once a week, and with full loads
    • Install LED or energy-saving light bulbs
    • Do not overload electrical outlets
    • Do not use damaged appliances
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