Government announces electricity rationing as drought threatens water supplies for hydro-electric plants — here's why it matters

Costa Rica, a country renowned for its renewable energy endeavors, is grappling with a significant drought. To help the situation, the country has begun electricity rationing — a move that underscores the nation's dependence on hydropower.

What's happening?

According to, starting in mid-May, Costa Rica rolled out electricity rationing due to dwindling water levels in the dams powering its hydroelectric plants. These low water levels are a result of the current El Niño spell.

"This El Niño has really been the most complicated in the history of Costa Rica," said Roberto Quiros, director of the country's ICE electricity institute.

El Niño is characterized by the warming of surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, which can lead to a ripple effect of weather changes.

In Costa Rica, El Niño can lead to drier conditions, especially in the Pacific regions of the country. This happens because El Niño typically shifts the jet stream southward, which can result in reduced rainfall for Costa Rica during what would normally be the wet season. This can affect agriculture and water supplies, and it can even increase the risk of forest fires because of the drier conditions.

Why is electricity rationing important?

The decision to ration electricity sheds light on the vulnerability of Costa Rica's energy infrastructure, which is heavily reliant on renewable sources. In fact, approximately 99 percent of Costa Rica's electricity is generated from renewable sources, with roughly three-quarters originating from hydroelectric plants.

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While El Niño events are a natural weather phenomenon, the scientific consensus emphasizes that eco-unfriendly human actions exacerbate their impact, making them more severe and frequent. The current drought in Costa Rica — coupled with the warming global climate — has significantly reduced water levels in hydroelectric dams, necessitating electricity rationing.

What's being done about electricity?

While rationing mitigates the immediate challenges, it's also important to look into sustainable, long-term solutions. Diversifying energy sources and investing in resilient technologies are on the agenda.

Additionally, individual efforts to conserve energy and support eco-friendly initiatives are crucial in mitigating climate risks.

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