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Colombia rolls out new incentives to cut electricity consumption as dry weather persists

FILE - Boats sit docked around the exposed banks of the El Penol-Guatape hydroelectric dam, due to low water levels, in Guatape, Colombia,
Fredy Amariles
/
AP
FILE - Boats sit docked around the exposed banks of the El Penol-Guatape hydroelectric dam, due to low water levels, in Guatape, Colombia, April 3, 2024.

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombia’s government on Tuesday rolled out new incentives to reduce electricity consumption in the South American nation, which has been hit by a severe drought that has diminished the capacity of local hydroelectric plants and brought officials close to imposing power cuts.

The ministry of mines and energy said that in the following weeks homes and businesses that exceed their average monthly electrical consumption will be charged additional fees for every extra kilowatt-hour used, while those who use less electricity than usual will be rewarded with discounts.

Officials in Colombia hope the measures will help to reduce consumption and help local reservoirs recover.

“We want to stop the waste of electricity, especially among large consumers,” Andrés Camacho, Colombia's mines and energy minister, wrote on X. He added that a decision to shut down government offices last Friday and a recent uptick in rain raised the level of local reservoirs by about 2% over the weekend.

Colombia usually gets 70% of its electricity from dams, but a prolonged dry season, caused by the El Niño weather pattern, has boosted imports of fossil fuels and made the country more dependent on power plants that run with natural gas and currently supply 50% of the nation's electrical needs.

READ MORE: Concordia Americas 2024: Migration, climate change top agenda for UM annual conference

The dry season, which began at the end of last year, has also threatened supplies of tap water.

Officials in Colombia's capital, Bogotá, began rationing water last week by dividing the city into nine districts that are being cut off from the water supply for 24 hours, on a rotating basis.

Mayor Carlos Fernando Galán last week said the city will impose fines on people who wash their cars on the streets and conduct other activities that are deemed to be wasteful. He also asked residents to refrain from taking daily showers as is customary in Colombia, especially on days when they’re not going to leave their homes.

Warming temperatures in the Pacific Ocean usually cause heavy rains along South America’s west coast, but they can also lead to droughts in the interior of the continent, including in the northern part of the Andes mountains.

This year’s prolonged dry season has also led to power cuts in Ecuador, which usually draws 75% of its electricity from hydroelectric power.

Homes and businesses in Ecuador’s main cities were cut off from the power grid for at least three hours each day last week, with President Daniel Noboa ordering businesses and schools to shut down Thursday and Friday as part of an effort to save energy and help reservoirs recover. The power cuts have continued this week in several cities, including the capital, Quito, and are affecting hospitals, schools and factories.

The Associated Press
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