COSTA RICA NEWS — The Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Publicos (ARSEP) – the regulatory agency of public prices and services, has recommended that the government-owned electricity monopoly the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) shut down half of its petroleum fueled generator plants for being incredibly inefficient.
In it’s repor the agency came to that conclusion after a study that proved that the electricity generated by the plants at Barranca, Moín Gas, Moín III and San Antonio is more expensive than imported electricity. In fact, the power generated by these plants was twice the cost of that in the other four petroleum fuel generators.
- Electricity generated costs up to three times the market offered in the region
- Regulator claims that inefficiency is reflected in rates to the consumer; ICE defends use
These inefficient plants produced a bare 15% of all electricity produced by the eight plants–but cost US$381 per megawatt from June, 2013 to May, 2014. This figure is exclusive of operation costs and contrasts with imported electricity costing around $199. The savings of US$180 per megawatt hour would have saved US$8 million last June.
The giant tractor-like engines at the worst plant, at Barranca, cost US$522 per kilowatt hour, three times more than imported power. This impacts directly in the electric bill of consumers, La Nacion was told. But ICE has repeatedly rejected the notion iof altering its practices.
Of the six countries in the Mercado Eléctrico Regional (MER) de Centroamérica network of shared electricity, Costa Rica was the second best customer–but of the 11 months studied, only exported power five of those months. Pacheco promised that the coming year the situation would be far different.
ICE engineer Luis Pacheco immediately responded by charging that it was an example of “lack of knowledge of the subject.” But the cheaper imported power represented only 8% of the total in April. While the four efficient plants produced electricity ranging from US$151 to US$165, the others ranged from US$279 to US$522 per Kw/H.
Pacheco attacked the report by saying, “MER (the imported electricity) isn’t an infinite resource and the cost of electricity is not the only element. You have to take into account restrictions in transmission … The systems have regulatory requirements and limitations of operational security.”
However, Costa Rican business and residents disagree with Pacheco. For them, the electric bill is the only thing that matters and they are tired of ICE’s endless excuses.
Editor’s notes: We have repeatedly observed, ICE the sacred cow whose engineers refuse to admit that the agency has fallen behind demand.
They have repeatedly tried to block generation of local private power and even during the election campaign this year politicians feared to tread on the toes of the historic monopoly–except for the Libertarian Movement. We also reported of a case where ICE used its inadequate petroleum generation in lieu of buy privately produced power.
It is nearly impossible to get through to engineers who refuse to face reality and tell any critic that they don’t know what they are talking about. The consumer doesn’t have a degree he can wave in front of their bureaucratic noses, but they can wave the bills they are paying.
The whole generation issue needs a thorough airing, including the pay scale for ICE employees, In private enterprise, if something isn’t working, you shut it down. The sacred cow isn’t producing enough milk but is eating more. And President Solis cannot put off the tough choices any longer.
Article by iNews.co.cr, with editing by the Q!