Sunday, February 07, 2010

Our Wet Winter and Ecuador's Electricity

For the past month or so, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has struggled with stagnating approval ratings. In part, Correa's troubles stem from on-going problems related to an economy almost completely dependent on oil revenues. Despite the country's oil resources, though, much of Correa's current problems stem from the weather.

This has been a doozy of an El Niño year, the cause of the US's current weather pattern. And while an El Niño event means a much wetter winter for much of the US, in the Sierra of Ecuador it means drought. Because of a series of development decisions dating from 1950s and 1960s modernization theory, Sierran electrification was built on hydroelectric power, which means that during times of drought, the highlands of Ecuador are at risk of serious power shortages. This week, Correa declared a state of emergency in the central Sierra as agriculture has begun to experience the effects of the same weather circumstances that caused rolling blackouts from November through January. Back in January the government estimated that the rolling blackouts cost some $250M in sales and services.