Saturday, October 20th, 2012 – QNews Costa Rica | Source: Fijatevos

Brace yourself for a longer than average dry season — and a higher than average series of electric bills.

This was the ominous prediction from Environment Minister Rene Castro this week. The water level of the Arenal Reservoir is at “alarmingly” low levels, he warns.

On Oct. 15, the level of the water behind the 157 megawatt Arenal dam generators was at 536 meters above sea level — four meters below the estimate by the national power company ICE.

The figure rivals the record low during the dry season of 1994-95 when it sank to 539 meters, below which the generators cannot function. Castro blames the cyclical “el Niño” phenomenon.

El Nino’s resultant droughts affect the driest zones of the country such as Guanacaste province and the northern zone. Castro noted that during the depth of the dry season this year (February, March and April, ICE spent 400 billion colones in petroleum fuel to augment hydroelectric generation.

In fact, the diesel generators at Garabito power station, reserved only for the dry season, haven’t stopped generating since then. And this month is the rainiest of the year before November’s downpours taper off.

But, trouble is, there have been all too few downpours. Yes, there have been rainstorms but shorter duration than, say, in 2010. And 2013 presents an even grimmer picture, with more sprinkles than satisfying rains.

The public service regulation agency Aresep envisions the next rate hike starting in November. ICE has asked for a 15% hike to pay for imported petroleum.

ICE has two hydroelectric dams under construction but each is behind schedule. To save power, turn off all unnecessary lights. And their geothermal projects are just starting the bidding process.

Source: Fijatevos