Ecuador Plunged into Darkness by Nationwide Blackout

Ecuador’s acting energy minister has attributed a nationwide blackout to decades of underinvestment in the power system.

The Ecuadorian government has attributed a nationwide blackout that struck the South American nation on Wednesday to years of insufficient funding.

The emergency was triggered by a malfunctioning transmission line, which led to a cascading failure, plunging the country of 18 million into darkness for several hours.

Roberto Luque, the Public Works Minister who also serves as acting energy minister, stated that the outage began around 3:00 p.m. local time at the 230,000-volt Milagro-Zhoray connector and spread throughout the power grid. By approximately 6:40 p.m., crews managed to restore power to around 95% of the country.

During the blackout, power loss caused widespread traffic disruptions in major cities such as Quito and Guayaquil. The capital’s subway system was suspended. The Education Ministry announced that schools in larger communities would temporarily transition to remote instruction due to safety concerns for students.

The crisis, which media reports described as the worst blackout since October 2016, was a consequence of nearly two decades of insufficient funding for the energy sector, according to Luque. He explained during a briefing that a program launched in 2004 to enhance grid resilience had not been adequately implemented.

”For years we did not invest in these systems, and today we are experiencing the consequences,” he explained.

Luque characterized the emergency as a result of unusual and rare circumstances, which nonetheless highlighted the fragility of Ecuador’s energy infrastructure. He emphasized the need for increased funding for backup thermal power plants and renewable energy sources.

In April, President Daniel Noboa declared an energy emergency in response to a drought impacting Ecuador’s hydroelectric generation. Over the weekend, heavy rainfall brought a separate set of challenges, with a significant amount of sediment washed downstream threatening damage to turbines at Coca Codo Sinclair and Agoyan. These facilities, which contribute roughly half of the country’s electricity output, had to be shut down.