Panama takes measure to save power as drought hits output of its hydroelectric plants

PANAMA CITY – The Panama Canal Authority said Wednesday it has adopted several water-saving measures to help save energy as the Central American country faces a power shortage because of a lack of rain.

It said it has suspended use of hydraulic assistance to help push ships out as they leave locks and it will put two ships in a lock at a time rather than one.

“The preventive measures were adopted after weather forecasts indicated that the dry season may extend at least 10 days,” the authority said in a statement.

Panama authorities on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in some regions affected by the lack of rain and ordered several energy-saving measures to avoid scheduled blackouts.

Officials ordered all public schools, including universities, to close for three days, and told government offices and businesses to reduce hours and limit air conditioning. They also ordered supermarkets and nightclubs to limit their hours and to cut down on the number of illuminated billboards turned on at night.

Panama gets about 60 per cent of its energy from hydroelectric plants, whose output has been hit hard by drought.

The Central American country of 3.4 million people is going through a construction boom and is one of Latin Americas fastest growing economies.

“If (dry weather) conditions continue and consumption is not reduced, we will have to start rationing,” said Marianela Herrera, assistant manager of the Electrical Transmission Co., which distributes power in the country.

“For the kind of crisis we’re going through, we need more (austerity measures),” she added.

Authorities said they would reassess on Sunday whether to ease the measures.