Cuba and its energetics perspective: a recent review (I)


By José Luis Rodríguez

A few days ago the Ministry of energy and mines provided an extensive explanation about the prospects for the generation of electricity for the next 15 years, during which it has planned a profound change in the matrix of the national electricity production. In order to have a vision of the importance of these transformations it is necessary to take into account how the sector has evolved over the past 25 years.

One of the hardest hit during the so-called Cuban special period economy was precisely the energy situation, considering that the country did not have enough for the production of oil deposits, nor had other natural resources that assist such lack.

Until 1989 the production of oil and gas did not reach 1 million tons per year and the delivery of energy carriers rested on the import from the former Soviet Union, which reached 13.3 million tons of crude annually up to that date. Even – using oil – saving avoided arrive to consume the amount agreed for imports for some years, which provided additional revenue by millions of dollars in an operation equivalent to the re-exportation of fuel through a special agreement with the Soviets, operation which had already reached 10.2 million tons in the five years 1981-1985.

At the beginning the crisis of 1990s, Cuba produced 671 thousand tons of oil, so away Soviet imports in 1992 – payable in transferable rubles and at a fair price – a severe crisis was faced with decreasing external purchases of petroleum and products of 10.2 million tons in 1990 to 5.5 million in 1993, a decrease of 45.8% in three years.

The effects of such reduction were expected, particularly in the production of electricity, which was mostly based on oil derivatives. In this way, the generation fell 15,025 GWH in 1990 to 12,459 in 1995 to a low of 17.1%.

Already last year the crisis had reached a critical point when generating capacity stood below 40% of its potential due to lack of fuel, which forced the withdrawal of a significant part of the industry, and created a very tense situation in the population due to power outages every 8 hours in the capital of the country and for longer even than in other cities and towns.

This adverse situation began to overcome with the increase of national oil production, which in 1995 reached 471 million tons, and in this they played an important role especially created with Canadian capital ventures. To this was added the adaptation of plants so that they began to burn the very national crude, considered very heavy, but whose use became inevitable in those circumstances.

From the use of the gas attendant of the oil fields in 1997 increased energy production, and in 2000 has managed to accumulate three thousand 269 million tons of oil equivalent. Also power generation equaled the level of 1990, although with a slightly different composition, since the thermal power generated 89%, but the gas turbines covered 9%. On the other hand, the average consumption in the residential sector exceeded the 126 KWH at the beginning of this century, surpassing 3% from 1990.

In the same way, from a greater weight of the tourism sector in the economic growth of the country and the contraction in the industry, fell 2.64 million barrels of oil equivalent energy intensity coefficient for each million dollars of GDP in 1990to 1.99 in 2000, measured at constant prices of the year. In addition, decreased CO2 emissions in terms of Kg/h of 3.18 in 1990 at 2.40, for a reduction of 24.5%.

During decade 2000-2010 occurred also important changes in the Cuban energy sector. A factor that marked the beginning of these changes was the crisis of electricity generation during the second half of 2004. In this case collapsed several thermal power stations, starting with the Antonio Guiteras in Matanzas, which led the country into a situation similar to 1994, reaching reduced generating capacity to 38% of the potential, with the consequent paralysis of many economic activities and the reappearance of similar intensity to the experienced electricity cuts ten years earlier.

Against this complex situation, the country should devote hundreds of millions of dollars -in first place for the purchase of power plants from diesel fuel to ensure the peak of generation of the nights, when demand rose well above the possibility of generating. Then it was necessary to acquire decentralized plants that would use fuel and working more efficiently.

From this experience, it was proposed an intense plan of saving electricity and other energy carriers, giving rise to what would be called as energy revolution, which would be developed in the context of the so-called battle of Ideas, launched from 1999.

(To be continued)

* The author is an advisor of the Center of Research of the Economy
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