Country Listing

Venezuela Table of Contents



In 1990 Venezuela boasted significant electricity production and even greater potential. Besides its plentiful reserves of coal, oil, and gas, Venezuela's cascading rivers provided a hydroelectric potential in excess of 60,000 megawatts (MW), only a small fraction of which had been tapped. The country's total installed capacity in electricity multiplied more than ten times in the thirty-year period from 1960 to 1990, jumping from 1,350 MW hours to over 18,000 MW hours. Actual electricity generation paralleled that trend over the same time period, spiraling to more than 52 million MW hours. During the same time period, the percentage of electric power attributed to hydroelectricity rose to about 50 percent by 1990. Thermal-based electricity declined accordingly.

The national power network encompassed both public and private utilities under the regulation of the Ministry of Energy and Mines. Four major public-sector utilities supplied over twothirds of the country's electric power, while seven private firms provided the remainder. Until the 1986 opening of the massive Guri hydroelectricity facility, the National Electricity Company (Compañía Anónima de Administración y Fomento Eléctrico--CADAFE) accounted for over 90 percent of the electric power generated by the public sector. CADAFE increased public access to electricity from roughly 30 percent in 1960 to an estimated 92 percent by 1990. The Guri hydroelectric plant, with over 10,000 MW of installed capacity (the world's fourth largest capacity), became the nation's largest single source of electricity upon its completion in 1986. The Guri Dam, located on the Río Caroní, saved the country the equivalent of 300,000 barrels of oil a year.

Venezuela consumed more electricity than any other country in Spanish-speaking Latin America. Industry consumed 53 percent of all electricity in 1988, followed by private residences (22 percent), commercial entities (13 percent), and federal and local governments (12 percent). Electric rates were highly subsidized until 1989 when the government's structural adjustment policies triggered rate increases of 30 to 65 percent, depending on usage.

The government's plans for the 1990s focused on expanding hydroelectricity output near Ciudad Guayana and reorganizing utilities along more efficient and decentralized lines. The Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana (Corporación Venezolana de Guayana--CVG) oversaw the 360-MW Macagua I plant on the Río Caroní and planned to operate Macagua II, also on the Río Caroní, which was slated to provide an additional 2,500 MW by the early to mid-1990s. In addition, preliminary engineering work on complexes at Caruachi and Tocoma began in 1989; the CVG hoped to further harness the power of the Río Caroní to produce 2,500 MW from each of these facilities. The abundant and cheap supplies of hydroelectricity near Ciudad Guayana represented a significant advantage for Venezuelan heavy industries relative to other South American nations.

Despite these advantages, ambitious long-range expansion plans were hampered by the rigid bureaucracy and centralization of CADAFE. By some estimates, the company wasted nearly 40 percent of its generated power through deficient maintenance, frequent power failures, and theft.

Data as of December 1990