The Arenal reservoir, the most important source of the country’s electrical power, began the year with one of the lowest water reserves, as compared to the last seven years.
For the second year, the reservoir recorded a level close to 540 metres above sea level for the month of January. The minimum acceptable level is 525 metres.
If the situation continues, the reduction in water levels affects the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) capacity for hydro power and possibly force the spending of money on fuel for energy.[quote]Lake Arenal is situated in the northern highlands of Costa Rica, in the provinces of Guanacaste and Alajuela. It is located in the Arenal Tilaran Conservation Area, and is close to the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde cloud forest. The lake is approximately 30 km long and almost 5 km at its widest point, making it the largest lake in Costa Rica at 85-square-kilometre (33 sq mi). Its depth varies between 30 and 60 meters (100–200 feet) depending on the season.[/quote]
In 2012, ICE reports spending ¢75 billion colones in bunker fuel for its thermal generating plants. In 2013, the spending rose to ¢120 billion colones, forcing up electricity rates.
The Arenal reservoir and its 330 megawatt hydro electrtic generator is part of the Lake Arenal located in the northern part of the country and responsible for some 20% of all electrical energy production.
The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional (IMN) – national weather service – forecast in November that the trend of decreased rainfall would continue for the first quarter of 2014.
According to ICE, the reduced rainfall has yet to affect the hydro generation at Cachí, Pirrís and Angostura, whose reservoirs have a higher level of water reserves. ICE also reports improvements in wind power generation, as compared to the same period in 2013.
With reduced hydro electric generation at the Arenal and decreased rainfall, to meet electricity demands in the coming months, ICE is forced to burn hydrocarbons.
ICE says it is analyzing whether it makes more financial sense to purchase execss energy from neighbouring countries instead of thermal generation.
Juan Manuel Quesada, in charge of Energy at the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos (Aresep) – regulating body on public prices and services – says one way to mitigate the effects of a shortage of water in the Arenal reservour is to dip into the Mercado Eléctrico Regional (Regional Electricity Market), which offers energy at lower prices compares to the cost of thermal generation.
Source: La Nacion