Uruguay - Energy and power

Uruguay's power is provided by hydroelectric and diesel-generating plants. Supplying electricity for light, power, and traction has been a state monopoly since 1897. Uruguay's installed capacity was 2,178,000 kW in 2001; total output in 2000 was 6.5 billion kWh, of which 92.8% came from hydroelectric sources, 6.6% from fossil fuels, and less than 1% from other sources. In the mid-1970s, the government imposed a mandatory program to curb power consumption because of rising fuel import costs. As of 2000, 54% of total energy consumption came from imported oil. Uruguay has one of Latin America's highest rates of electrification (95% as of 2002).

The first hydroelectric plant, at the site of the Rincón del Bonete Dam on the Río Negro, was completed in 1949 and has a capacity of 128 MW. The dam created the Lago Artificial del Río Negro, the largest artificial lake in South America. In 1960, a generating plant with a capacity of 108 MW was completed at Rincón de Baygorría, also on the Río Negro. The Salto Grande Dam on the Río Uruguay, built with Argentina and having a potential capacity of 1,890 MW, began producing electricity in 1979; as a result, Uruguay became a net exporter of electricity to Argentina in the mid-1980s. The 300-MW Palmar hydroelectric power station, financed and built by Brazil, started production in 1981 and was completed by the mid-1980s. As of 2002 Uruguay had four major hydroelectric facilities: the Salto Grande (shared with Argentina, Uruguay's capacity 945 MW); the Gabriel Terra Dam (148 MW), the Baygorria Dam (108 MW); and Constitucion Dam (333 MW).

By a bilateral agreement signed with the United States, Uruguay is entitled to receive atomic equipment and to lease nuclear fuels. Negotiations on contracts with four US oil companies for offshore oil exploration were concluded by the Uruguayan government in February 1975, but no commercially exploitable resources were found. The Administración Nacional Combustibles, Alcohol, y Portland (ANCAP) refines 80% of Uruguay's fuel energy requirements at its La Teja plant in Montevideo. In 2002, the state-owned refinery had a capacity of 37,000 barrels per day. Consumption in 2000 included 43,000 barrels per day of crude and refined petroleum.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Uruguay was planning to shift much of its energy dependence from hydroelectric power to natural gas with the projected installation of some 850 MW of gas-fired generating capacity over a 10-year period. In late 1998, the first natural gas pipeline from Uruguay to Argentina was completed, at a cost of $8 million. Major construction on the $170 million Cruz del Sur pipeline that will link both Uruguay and Brazil with Argentina began in 2001.

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