The cost of Cuban "expertise"

An alleged picture of the CORPOELEC offices in the Caracas neighborhood of El Marqués, where looks like the Cuban flag flies next to the Venezuelan one.

As the ongoing electric crisis continues, this blog reported last September how Cuba was helping the national electric company CORPOELEC handle the numerous problems of our power grid system.

Today, an article in the Valencia newspaper Notitarde gives us an estimate of how that assistance is worth by the day: 3.1 Million US$.

Expenses include the advisory fees, salaries and other allowances. There are at least 1,000 Cuban electrical workers in Venezuela right now, with 400 of them repairing the Planta Centro power station.

Interesting to point out that CORPOELEC has used in part borrowed money from the Inter-American Development Bank (IABD) to pay the Cubans.

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  1. Spoke to an expert who has worked for Corpoelec in recent years , tells me the head cuban advisor insisted on a strategy for handling the crisis which actually made it worse. Based on his cuban experience he insisted the problem be tackled by building many small mini plants which really didnt help and made the effort much more costly and wasteful of resources. the cost to Venezuela of following this advise is much larger than three odd million USD.

      • Mini-generation is less efficient, perhaps for natural gas it makes sense. Or small nuclear plants like those developed by Hyperion Power. All the rest of it is hype, even in Germany they are building more large coal plants. Small renewable plants are just window dressing with a few exceptions.

        • Distributed generation (or mini?) it is not less efficient and in many cases more economical. Distribution is more economical (you don’t need huge distribution lines) and it is more robust (if a plant fails, it won’t kill 30% of your capacity).

          On top of all these distributed generation has a fraction of the environmental impact.

          It is also energy source dependent. It is very hard to make coal in the small scale cost effectively. But wind, hydro, solar, nuclear, gas, biomass, fuel cells can be very competitive in the small scale.

          They are definitely more than window dressing. In this real also there is a lot of confusion to what’s small or mini. Is it 100 kW or 1 MW or 10 MW?

          Also for renewable resources there are a lot more small sources of energy available by orders of magnitude than large ones. Not only in numbers but in total energy available.

          It can have few drawbacks like more complex grid management or less spinning inertia.

          At they end there isn’t a silver bullet. The optimal solutions are hybrid. A few large central plants combined with many medium sized ones and tons of small ones.

      • Yes, minis are in, but Venezuela’s system was always interconnected. They built all the plants without interconnecting them (Like in Cuba) which is very inefficient. Additionally, the hydroelectric plants that Giordani cancelled (Saying: Hey! I am an electrical Engineer) were the same order of magnitude in price, but used no fuel.

        • Miniplants come in many different sizes, perhaps the minis of the 1st world are different in scale from the minis which Cuban’s want built .in Venezuela . In any event because Venezuela has such huge hydroelectrical capacity and can get such good money from exporting the diesel and fuel oil that thermal miniplants consume , the rational strategy should be to expand the generation and distribution of hydroelectical power (which is cheap) while maintaining a basic network of thermal plants for use only where hydroelectrical power becomes insufficient or unavailable. This used to be the planning strategy in the Past. . Problem is that for 10 years practically no new hydroelectric generation was added and little maintenance was done to the existing grid a clear case of mismanagement . by the way the Cuban advisor was not an electrical expert he was a big political honcho from Castro’s circle of trusted henchmen.

          • “the rational strategy should be to expand the generation and distribution of hydroelectical power (which is cheap) while maintaining a basic network of thermal plants for use only where hydroelectrical power becomes insufficient or unavailable”.
            That was the strategy until the revolution took over. So much so that Planta Centro and other thermal plants were converted from fuel oil to natgas.

            However, the problems today are the consequence of 30 years of lack of investment from the government owned utilities, excluding Edelca, made exponentially worse by the geniuses running the country now.

          • I agree with your comment but saying that the Cubans are behind a distributed approach to energy generation is giving too much credit to Cubans and saying that Venezuelan are morons. Distributed energy generation has been in the national strategic plans prior to Chavez. The idea behind was to use the vast reserves of natural gas available in the delta platform. That same gas pushed for natural gas vehicles and the development of a gas distribution network via pipes. This network was partly built. Sadly, the Gran Marical de Ayacucho liquefying complex was never built. So far there is only a fence with a sign and a watchman.

            FYI, natural gas is extremely expensive to export and the government wanted to consume it locally. Producing electricity with natural gas is perhaps the cheapest MW and very clean. Leaving gasoline and diesel for exports.

  2. “Interesting to point out that CORPOELEC has used in part borrowed money from the Inter-American Development Bank (IABD) to pay the Cubans.”

    lol! Beautiful.

  3. They, the Cuban Marxist-Leninists have a long track record of educating Venezuelans and Latin Americans on economics, history, politics, public policy and civil rights. It stands for the world to see how well their (crackpot! they are as Scientology is to real Psychology and Psychiatry) versions thereof have fared in Cuba and the world. Complete failure falls short of the mark.

    Their advice on electricity seems trivial damage in comparison, they might even apply actual laws of nature and principles of engineering here. The worst damage was done to worldviews…

  4. OT, except where Cuban “expertise” is concerned.
    Maduro states Ch. is dealing with estragos de insuficiencia respiratoria. (some brain damage?)
    Rumors via Alberto Ravell are pointing to …
    unusual activity on ramp 4 Maiquetia y la Miranda
    Hospital Militar is preparing for an important patient
    Chavez muy tranquilo y consciente de todas las fases postoperatorias.

      • don’t know, just reporting on a few recent tweets (and one supposition) to add to Maduro’s announcement. Not willing to bet any money on the rumors. But if Ch is, indeed, on his way to Caracas, say, tonight, then his vital signs are stable. And he sure isn’t intubated.

        • The worst part of my daughter’s encounter with cancer was when, after five surgeries, she was moved from one hospital to another. She was moved on sophisticated stretchers in a very well equiped ambulance. She had pumps and tubes all over. The ride was smooth and short (1 Kilometer maybe) but to her weak body it was very hard to take. That night she was in such intense pain she coud barely breath.

          • I may have stated something too quickly, before recalling the phone call by the attending doctor in a small town hospital, who informed me that they were waiting for vital signs to stabilize in my intubated mother, close to death (rare allergic reaction to a sulfa-based diuretic), before an ambulance could take her to the nearest city hospital, about 120 Km away. So Ch. could still be intubated, his breathing dependent on machines. Qué culebrón es todo esto.

    • They could be flying in a corpse? Or maybe Fidel wants to try some free Venezuelan health care?
      In any event, if it is Chavez the cone of silence will be broken quickly.

      • I forgot. It is just Raoul Castro flying to Venezuela to talk to his top military generals and other high-up Cuban politicians. Most are stationed in Caracas, so any meetings need to be done there. Later, he will tour La Casona to see how much remodeling needs to be done for him. His Cuban guards are already in place.

  5. Maduro on the Chávez signature:

    P.- Pero la firma del decreto, o sea ¿la firmó el presidente Chávez o fue una firma electrónica?

    R.- Bueno, yo pienso que eso es un debate digamos que no tiene ningún tipo de asidero, realmente. El presidente Chávez ha dado una orden y ha firmado un decreto y el decreto ha salido como salen centenares de decretos durante el año, en todo caso ellos han querido posicionar un tema en un debate que no tiene ninguna digamos trascendencia para la vida política del país, no le aporta nada positivo.

    Complete interview here:

    • Elude la pregunta de manera flagrante, y aduce que es un debate sin sentido…. ???…. claro que esten o no cumpliendo con la ley es un sin sentido, que esten montados en el coroto es lo que importa!

      • Like they say in Venezuela “tronco e’ cara ‘e tabla”, in Spain is almost the same but they went with harder stuff: “cara de cemento”.

  6. On the surface it looks stupid. However, when I think about a possible motive for this, I think about the “killing fields” in Cambodia under Khmer Rouge to clean away the educated and cultured population and prepare for a pure form of communism. Could Chavismo be so dark?

  7. Another term for theses small plants is co-generation and have been around for a long time. The problem with them is that they are only about 33% efficient and unless you have a need for a lot of waste heat like heating a school or hospital in northern climates cost a lot to run. Most only run when there is an advantage to do so. Boston Edison for example pays them to go offline when they need more power in peak winter and summer demands. They also cost a lot to maintain and at about 50 plus gallons of diesel fuel per Mw/hour produce a logistics problem.
    A cost effective plant in Venezuela would be one that runs on Heavy Crude with a pipeline from the field. Of course their not about to let engineering get in the way of politics and commisions.

    • It is not another “term”, it would be more appropriate to say another “use” as it only applies for thermal sources. Heat can be used for air conditioning by the way.

      And they are not that inefficient.

  8. With a thousand Cuban electrical workers in Venezuela, who is watching the Cuban electrical grid? Does Chavez feel secure that his hospital will have a constant supply of electricity? Maybe he needs to re-think that contract.

  9. The Cubans did not advise building state of the art minis or distribs- they ordered building more oil fired electric of the type they know how to control and keep in service. The are orders of ten below the current generation oil fired units, and even less efficient than the alternative fueled units. Why people even pretend anymore that there is an electoral solution to this mess,why anybody tries to apply try rational actor theory and talk with these clowns is beyond me! The time for that was over fourteen years ago, before Chavez was ever elected. Now, they are 100% in control of the institutions, nearly all of the military, turning the country into a roach hotel, just try to get rid of the chiripas! Good luck!


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