Cuba faces summer energy cutbacks

Cubans are in for an especially hot summer under an energy-saving plan that could shut off air conditioners at work and require Saturday-morning power blackouts at home, according to an unpublished government directive obtained by the Associated Press. The measures are necessary, the plan says, to conserve petroleum used to generate electricity during the sweltering summer months.

Signed by economics minister Marino Murillo and circulating this week among government offices and state companies, the plan also calls for large-scale holidays for government workers. Unexpected increases in petroleum use this year have alarmed the government, according to the directive, and the “exceptional measures” will take effect on Monday.

In Havana, home to more than two million of Cuba’s more than 11 million people, temperatures commonly reach at least 32º Celsius in the summer, with humidity around 88% in the morning. Residential electrical use can often triple in the summer because of fans and air conditioners.

The government says 40,000 extra tonnes of petroleum worth US$100,000 were used during the first three months of the year to cover an unplanned 3% increase in electricity over what was projected. Cuba produces about half its oil, and receives the rest from Venezuela. Most of the island’s electricity is generated by crude oil.

Conservation plans will be prescribed for each province, and every government department must file a daily report on electrical use, according to the directive. It notes that blackouts should not be scheduled during regular cooking times, to minimise the impact on homes. In addition to disconnecting air conditioners at workplaces, lighting at some businesses will be shut off.

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