Was sabotage at 10.3-GW Guri hydroelectric plant behind the blackout in Venezuela?

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said last week that an “act of sabotage” at the 10.3-GW Guri hydroelectric plant was to blame for the countrywide blackout.

Guri (also known as Simon Bolivar) is the fourth largest operating power plant in the world. The civil structure, on the Caroni River, was built in the 1960s at a cost of US$850 million. Flow from the reservoir to the facility’s powerhouse produces about 65% of Venezuela’s electricity.

What is behind this assertion? President Maduro has previously accused the U.S. of leading an “economic war” against the country after a series of sanctions. “The electric war announced and led by American imperialism against our people will be defeated. Nothing and no one can beat the people of Bolivar and Chavez. Maximum unity of the Patriots!” he wrote on Twitter.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refuted Maduro’s claims and said the situation was a result of the regime’s own shortcomings. Juan Guaido, the opposition leader recognized by the U.S. and at least 50 other countries as Venezuela’s leader, also attributed the outage to Maduro’s administration.

Forbes said, “The reality is that Venezuela’s blackout was most likely due to chronic underfunding of its electrical infrastructure and deferred maintenance.”

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. is removing all diplomatic personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas

Schools, businesses, and government entities in Venezuela were forced to close on Friday, March 8. Power went out around 5 pm on Thursday, March 7.

The New York Times reported the outage occurred at the San Geronimo B substation, which supplies electricity to four out of five Venezuelans from Guri. They also reported that the San Geronimo A backup substation, which transmits power from the Macagua hydropower plant, was operating intermittently on Sunday. The other electricity supply available came from “a few unreliable thermoelectric plants.”

To date more than a dozen people are reported to have died as a result of the blackout, and some news agencies are saying there is “no end in sight.”

Unsurprisingly, due to the lack of reliable power in the country, we have been unable to reach anyone at Corpoelec (Corporacion Eletrica Nacional), which operates the Guri project.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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