Cuba’s president said his nation will replace five large power plants with smaller, regional plants to reduce the number and length of blackouts.
BY ANITA SNOW
HAVANA – Fidel Castro announced a long-awaited renovation of Cuba’s energy system to combat blackouts that have afflicted the island nation for two summers running.
In a Tuesday night speech published the next day in state newspapers, Castro said Cuba would decentralize its power system, gradually replacing five massive thermoelectric plants with smaller, regional plants supplemented by solar and wind power.
In the wake of technical problems at the huge plants that have caused severe blackouts across the island beginning in 2004, ”new ideas about the development of a more efficient and secure national electrical system have been put into practice,” Castro said in a speech of more than two hours.
The president also said Cuba had ordered more than 4,000 diesel and oil generators, with more than 3,000 already delivered.
Generators have been installed to maintain power during emergencies at critical sites such as hospitals, schools, meteorological stations and tourist hotels, Castro said.
Blackouts occur in Cuba year-round, but they increase during the hot summer months when electricity use spikes.
Problems in the electrical grid are compounded in the late summer and fall when hurricanes batter the island with high winds and heavy rainfall, causing additional damage to the antiquated infrastructure and often knocking out power in some regions for days.
Last summer, Cubans sweltered during frequent blackouts that kept them from operating fans and water pumps during heat topping 90 degrees.
In many homes, milk and other refrigerated food soured, and power surges damaged refrigerators, televisions and other appliances difficult to replace on meager Cuban salaries.
Castro has promised Cubans since early 2005 that a major overhaul of the electrical grid was being planned.
The plan also calls for replacing old electrical cables tying the national energy system together, and governmental studies on ways to make better use of solar and wind energy, Castro said.
The president detailed the proposal in a speech given to electrical workers and Communist Party faithful in the western province of Pinar del Río.