HAVANA, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Cuba, mired in an energy crisis that has caused frequent blackouts, is negotiating with a Turkish company to double the megawatts the country currently produces from floating power plants, according to two people familiar with the matter. the discussions.
Cuban officials are in talks with Karpowership, one of the world’s largest operators of floating power plants and part of Turkey-based Karadeniz Holding, the sources said. The company already has five ships operating off the coast of Cuba with a capacity of around 250 megawatts (MW).
The Caribbean country needs to generate more than 3,000 MW to meet minimum demand and currently produces between 2,000 and 2,500 MW.
Neither the Unión Eléctrica de Cuba nor Karpowership responded to requests for comment on the matter.
The sources, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said the talks focused on how to secure lease payments from Cuba.
“The (US trade) embargo makes Western financial transactions very difficult. Cuba is short on cash and behind on payments with many vendors and joint venture partners,” one of the sources said.
Experts maintain that the Turkish company would need to increase its fleet off Cuba to produce the amount of energy required. The motorboats carry their own generator powered by oil or gas, anchor close to land and are connected to the local power grid.
The deal, if it goes through, would provide quick and much-needed relief for the embattled Cuban government as power outages have spread across the island and become longer lasting.
Cuba is desperate for more electricity capacity.
The energy crisis, with blackouts in blocks of four to six hours, twice a day or more in most of the country, is perhaps the most painful symptom of a deep financial crisis worsened by external factors such as Washington sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic mismanagement.
Cubans also face shortages of food, medicine, and fuel, and must stand in long lines to get basics.
There have been small, scattered protests this summer as US authorities reported a record more than 175,000 Cubans on the US-Mexico border since October.
Power plants in Cuba are outdated, with an average age of 35 years, and a backup system of hundreds of smaller generators at least 15 years old. Only 5% of energy comes from alternative sources.
The government blames a lack of funds for its inability to upgrade its power grid and says breakdowns and fuel shortages are the main cause of blackouts.
Energy and Mines Minister Liván Arronte Cruz said last week that the country hopes to nearly eliminate blackouts by the end of the year, in part by adding “531 megawatts to generation capacity through new investments,” a figure reduced to 450 MW by President Miguel Díaz-Canel days ago.
Omar Ramírez Mendoza, deputy director of the Electric Union, said on state TV that “240 MW of mobile generation, also with the participation of foreign investment, should be available before the end of the year.”
The rest of the new capacity would come from upgrading existing facilities with the help of foreign partners in the nickel region, in Moa, in eastern Cuba, and in the Mariel Special Development Zone, west of Havana, he said. Ramirez.