Ecuador Declares Energy Emergency Amid Severe Regional Drought


Colombia has halted electricity exports to Ecuador as both countries grapple with depleted hydroelectric reservoirs. A drought in Colombia, fueled by the El Niño weather phenomenon, has compelled the Government to reduce the export of electricity to its neighbour, Ecuador, where an energy emergency has been declared.

Speaking in Guayaquil on April 16, Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa acknowledged the critical state of the country's energy sector. "Today we took a strong decision – once again we had to – which is to declare an emergency in the country's energy sector," Noboa stated.

Colombia and Ecuador rely on hydropower plants to meet their population's energy needs. However, the drought has caused water levels to plummet, including in reservoirs used for electricity. A minimum water flow is required to spin the turbines used to power hydroelectric plants.

Colombia's electricity operator, XM, has estimated that reservoirs in the country currently sit at 29.8 per cent of their capacity. The Government is rationing water in areas like Bogota, the capital. Colombia's mining and energy minister, Andres Camacho, informed reporters late on April 15 that the country was addressing the drought by reducing electricity exports. "Since Easter week, we limited energy exports to Ecuador. Right now, we are not exporting any electricity," Camacho stated.

Ecuadorian Energy Minister Andrea Arrobo Peña addressed the "unprecedented situations" facing the country and the region on April 15. She announced power outages and rationing to help address the energy shortages. "The length of the drought, the increase in climate temperatures, the lack of maintenance in the entire electrical system's infrastructure in previous years, and the presence of historically low water-flow levels have caused all available management plants to be activated," her department stated.

"Therefore, we make a civic call to all Ecuadorians to support efforts to reduce energy consumption during this critical week, considering that every drop of water and every unconsumed kilowatt counts as we face this reality together."

However, on Tuesday, 16 President Noboa announced he had asked Minister Arrobo Peña to resign. He also alluded to corruption and sabotage in the energy sector. "We have initiated an investigation for sabotage in certain areas and power plants," they wrote on social media. He pledged to apply "the full weight of the law" to any bad actors discovered during the investigation. "The problems in Ecuador's energy sector in recent years are not due to a lack of technical proposals, but to a lack of execution and firmness in combating entrenched corruption," Noboa stated.