This figure represents only a decrease of 561 cases (-1.8%) compared to the 31 thousand 324 registered in the same period of 2020, and includes interruptions that affected users of Empresa Eléctrica de Guatemala, SA (EEGSA) and the two distribution companies of the Energuate company (Deocsa and Deorsa).
The data corresponds to the counts of interruptions or blackouts, which consist of the lack of temporary electricity supply in one or more areas, sectors, municipalities or departments, which can last between three minutes and 48 hours and are attributed to failures (of the electricity infrastructure or due to weather events), scheduled maintenance work or collective outages.
This last case refers to service suspensions, when many people in a locality owe their bills and are reluctant to pay, which has caused conflicts between residents and distribution employees. In other cases, the inhabitants of neighboring communities, unrelated to the problem, have also been affected, the CNEE said. What the count does not include are service suspensions due to individual non-payment.
Apart from the three mentioned, another 16 distributors also operate as municipal electricity companies that also face interruptions.
Due to service interruptions and voltage fluctuations, between 2020 and 2021 the CNEE has received 885 complaints, of which approximately 40% have been attended by distributors. Another 40% is being verified and 20% remains pending.
The most recurrent cause of interruptions is the failure of network elements due to the incidence of climatic factors (such as wind, rain and others) on facilities, which require preventive or corrective maintenance, mentioned the president of CNEE, Rodrigo Fernández.
In order of importance, the interruptions and voltage problems are due to vulnerability of the distribution systems, failures in the transmission system and, on a small scale, to weaknesses in the generation system, the official explained.
Regarding the distribution, the vulnerability lies in the extensiveness of the networks, their geographical dispersion in conditions of varied orography (mountains, valleys, ravines, forests, jungle and others), which decreases in terms of transmission because this type of systems it is more robust due to the infrastructure it requires. However, they are also exposed to climatic factors and failures due to the end of the equipment’s useful life.
In generation, vulnerability is minimal and the drawbacks lie in technical factors inherent to generation plants, explained Fernández.
Cases by distributor
In the first half of 2021, there were 4,364 interruptions in areas that correspond to the EEGSA (Guatemala, Sacatepéquez and Escuintla) and in the same period of 2020 there were 4,584, refers the CNEE.
While in the area covered by Deocsa there were 13 thousand 806 in the first six months of this year, a figure that reflects an increase since in the same period of 2020 there were 12 thousand 980. In Deorsa, the behavior was different, since failures totaled 12,593, a reduction from 13,760 in the first half of last year.
But the interruptions have continued in the rest of the year and one of them occurred on Sunday, October 9 at night, when a blackout was registered that affected several areas of zones 12 and 13 of the capital and even reached La Aurora International Airport. Weeks earlier, blackouts of up to four hours had been reported in Zone 17.
On July 19 there were blackouts in several areas of the metropolitan area and EEGSA indicated that it was a failure in the electricity transmission system outside the company, but according to AMM reports, it was derived from a failure in the electricity grid. Transportista Eléctrica Centroamericana SA, (Trelec), a company affiliated to EEGSA.
At the end of August, residents of various municipalities in Zacapa were left without service for almost three days due to a technical failure in a power transformer in the Panaluya Substation, run by Inde.
On September 16, another interruption was registered in various areas of the capital and on that occasion it was also mentioned that it was a failure in the transmission system, unrelated to the distributor.
Between December 22 and 23, 2020, the electricity service was interrupted for more than 15 hours in municipalities of Alta Verapaz, Quiché and Huehuetenango due to damage caused by a bullet fired at the Cobán substation. On that occasion, Energuate reported that 106 thousand clients were harmed.
When consulting the distribution companies, EEGSA explained that in the first case, the problem originated in the transmission system, but the service was restored half an hour later. The distributor acknowledged that interruptions have increased, but argued that it is due to causes beyond its distribution network and attributes them to vehicle collisions with the poles, inconveniences in transmission networks, protection actions of the Wholesale Market Administrator (AMM) , as well as climatic aspects such as rain and thunderstorms.
“In the last five years, the average number of service interruptions caused by failures in our own network has not increased. With storms, branches or other objects can fall on the network and this causes the self-protection mechanism to be activated and that is when a momentary “downturn” is perceived, because this is how the system is defended to prevent elements from being burned and stop working ” , explained Ivette Zambrano, a spokeswoman for the company.
There are also power outages that are planned and with prior notice as part of the network improvement and growth plans, others are suspensions for preventive maintenance that guarantee the continuity of the electricity supply, he added.
For its part, the National Electrification Institute (Inde), reported that within the activity of the Electric Power Transportation and Control Company (ETCEE) there have only been power suspensions due to electrical storms, falling trees on power lines transmission lines that are out of the reach of personnel and due to scheduled suspensions for maintenance in substations and transmission lines.
“The voltage within the transmission system has remained stable. The transmission network, as well as the operation of the substations, is in optimal condition ”, assured the Inde.
Although due to the dates they happened, they are not included in the CNEE count that refers to the first semester of 2020 and 2021, interruptions related to the electricity transmission system have also been reported.
As for Energuate, it did not respond to repeated requests for information on the reasons for the blackouts in its areas of influence, which include 19 departments of the country.
Edgar Navarro, president of the AMM, expanded on what was mentioned by EEGSA about interruptions due to protection actions carried out by the entity he directs: “Many problems have arisen in the regional electricity system due to failures in other Central American countries, so in Guatemala automatically activates protection systems to avoid a greater impact on the country and with the aim of balancing supply with demand and begin to restore the service as soon as possible ”.
- Throughout the year 2019, eight events were registered in other countries of the region and that caused the disconnection of the service in Guatemala, in 2020 there were 10 and as of October 10, 2021 there have been eight, according to the AMM data.
He explained that the impacts have not been so great because the country has worked in the area to strengthen its electricity system and it is one of the most robust in the entire region, while others, there is still weakness in their transmission systems or they have introduced more volume of intermittent generation (solar and wind among others) which, due to the way it works, is not available all the time.
In the case of distribution problems, he mentioned, for example, that Energuate lines may be more vulnerable due to their length since they cover 85% of the entire country, and in his opinion, energy theft also affects, apart from the fact that in certain areas, do not allow distributor personnel to enter to maintain equipment and infrastructure.
“Sometimes, outsiders manipulate the equipment and a process called quality and continuity of service is interrupted. In the west and east of the country there are service quality problems, but in some areas they have not allowed the works included in the expansion plans of the country’s transmission network to finish in order to strengthen it ”, assured Navarro.
At the national level, energy consumption increased.
- Regarding energy consumption, it rose 8.8% between January and September 2021, compared to the same term in 2020 and has already exceeded the levels of 2019 with 6.7% more, the AMM reported. The behavior shows a recovery, since in that period of 2020 it fell -1.9%.
- In power demand during 2020, it remained almost the same as a year before and in 2021 it reached 1 thousand 829.5 megawatts, 2.37% more. Power is the maximum demand at any given time.
The EEGSA stated that demand is currently above the levels that were registered before the pandemic, but without reaching the growth projection for the year.
- As of last September it was 290.1 gigawatt hours (GWh), divided into the residential segments with 53.8%; commercial, 30%; industrial, 3.4%; government, 2.8%; municipal, 4.4%; auto producers, 0.06% as well as public lighting and fixed fees with 5%.
From a technical point of view, EEGSA affirmed that the network is covered, because they monitor, forecast and plan the growth of demand in the network, both horizontally and vertically, thus avoiding overloads and possible interruptions.
- In Energuate, from January to August 2021, consumption has been 2 thousand 127.59 gigawatt hours, about 5% more than in the same period of 2020, indicate data from the commission.
- Power demand also grew in that period to 586.97 megawatts (1.7% more).