Country Listing

Nicaragua Table of Contents


Electric Power and Energy

Nicaraguan electric power capacity expanded rapidly from 1950 to 1970, increasing about sixfold during that period. The system did not receive much attention throughout the Sandinista era, however, and power lines and transformers were frequently a focus of Contra attacks. The major centers of population and industry in the Pacific lowlands are served by an integrated power system. As late as 1993, the Caribbean region remained without an interconnected power grid. In the last nationwide survey in 1975, only 41 percent of the total number of dwellings and just 7 percent in rural areas had electricity.

In the early 1990s, Nicaragua obtained half of its 423- megawatt electric generating capacity from thermal generating plants. One geothermal electric plant operates on the slopes of the Momotobo volcano. A Soviet-financed hydroelectric plant was completed at Asturias in 1989, and in 1993 a large 400-megawatt hydroelectric plant was under construction at Copalar on the Río Grande.

Roughly half of Nicaragua's energy needs are satisfied by imported petroleum. The country's only refinery, located in Managua, is operated by Esso (Standard Oil) and has a capacity of 16,000 barrels per day. From 1979 to 1982, most of Nicaragua's oil came from Mexico and Venezuela through terms of the San José Accord (see Glossary), under which Mexico and Venezuela agreed to supply Nicaragua with oil. Both countries stopped supplies, however, when Nicaragua became delinquent on payments. The Sandinista government then turned to Cuba, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union for oil. The turmoil in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in 1989 resulted in deliveries dropping far short of demand. Electric power generation plummeted to 20 percent of capacity, and blackouts of up to ten hours a day were common. The new government of President Chamorro negotiated Nicaragua's outstanding debts with Mexico and Venezuela, and in 1991 these countries began delivering oil again.

Data as of December 1993