Massive blackout leaves Ecuador without power for over three hours

The government has blamed previous administrations for failing to invest sufficiently in the energy system. The latest incident comes after days of heavy rains that affected the country’s main hydroelectric plants

Police try to deal with the chaos generated by non-functioning traffic lights after recent power outages in Quito.Santiago Fernández (EFE)

Ecuador was in the dark for over three hours on Wednesday due to a massive blackout that affected the entire country. “There is a failure in the transmission line that caused a cascade disconnection, so there is no energy service on a national scale,” Roberto Luque, Minister of Energy, reported on the social media platform X. The power outage caused chaos in the streets of the main cities, Quito and Guayaquil.

The blackout took place amid an energy crisis that the country has been experiencing since 2023 and which has deepened in recent days after heavy rains were recorded in the mountains and in the Amazon region. The storms affected the Coca Codo Sinclair and Agoyán hydroelectric plants, which provide more than 50% of the country’s electricity.

The hydroelectric turbines had to be turned off over the weekend due to the sediment that the rains washed away and which damaged the facilities. However, Minister Luque later acknowledged that the outages were avoidable. “It could have been avoided, yes sir, it could have been avoided,” he said before placing the blame on previous administrations.

The head of the country’s energy policy said that for 20 years there has been no investment in the systemic electricity protection system. He added that the failure that caused a nationwide blackout started in the afternoon when the transmission line known as Milagro-Zhoray began to malfunction. “That is the last thing that the technicians of the National Electricity Operator were able to notice. Automatically that energy was distributed through other lines that also began to present errors. And then the failure affected other generating plants, and so the whole system began to collapse in a chain of events that caused a blackout.”

After 3 p.m. local time, power outages began to be reported in the main cities, from the capital, Quito, to Guayaquil, the largest in terms of population, and also Cuenca, at the gateway to the Amazon. The power supply was gradually restored at around 6:30 p.m., reaching 95% coverage. At 7 p.m. some parts of the country were still in the dark, however. Luque insisted that this latest emergency is a reflection of the energy crisis suffered by Ecuador due to the lack of investment in electricity generation, transmission and distribution systems. “For years we have failed to invest in these systems and today we are suffering the consequences,” said the minister, without explaining what kind of investment the current government has made to solve a crisis that began in October and worsened in April, when there were power outages that lasted up to 10 hours a day.

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