November 23, 2017

Experts think Impsa doesn’t ‘solve’ Venezuela’s energy problem

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Venezuela refutes Enrique Pescarmona

Tocoma I, two dams built across the lower stretches of the Caroni River and provide Venezuela with electricity.

By Carolina Barros

Herald Staff

Venezuelan specialist disagrees with the explanations provided by the Impsa Group in a press release this week referring to allegedly inflated contracts and inexperience to increase the power of Macagua I and provide turbines for Tocoma I, two hydroelectric projects built across the lower stretches of the Caroni River.

Sources in the energy sector that were contacted by the Herald in Caracas, believe that Mendoza-based Impsa, the group headed by Enrique Pescarmona, may have held talks with Voith Siemens — a world leader in the design of hydroelectric turbines and the manufacturer of the six Macagua I turbines that came on stream in 1959 — “since the Mendoza company’s experience in this field is recent  (1994).”

In Monday’s press release Impsa pointed out that “it has never requested the assistance from its German competitor Voith Siemens to increase the power of Macagua I.”

As to the way that Impsa landed the contract, those energy experts say that Venezuela, with no capacity to manufacture turbines, has always put out to tender through the state-run Edelca (Electrificación del Caroní) the supply of turbines for five of its dams: Macagua I (six Francis turbines of 60 MW each), Macagua II (12 Kaplan turbines of 230 MW each), Guri I (10 Francis turbines totaling 3.000 MW), Guri II (10 Francis turbines totalling 6.000 MW), Caruachi (12 Kaplan turbines of 230 MW each).

On this issue the Impsa press statement said that it was the agreements between the Venezuelan and Argentine states that “enabled such a sensitive issue as energy to be resolved.”  This isn’t the view of Víctor Poleo, the former director of the Energy and Mines Ministry’s electricity sector (1999-2001), and one of the most consulted specialists about the energy crisis that is plaguing Venezuela.

According to Poleo, Impsa doesn’t “solve” Venezuela’s energy problem. “If we were to pass judgement based on his contract for 10 Kaplan turbines for Tocoma I (with a contract awarded to the Pescarmona group to supply the turbines) maybe Impsa will make the situation worse in the future.

“The most delicate part of a hydroelectric dam,” continues Poleo, “is its turbines, which are the heart of the generating capacity.” That is why the engineer believes that “as the Tocoma turbines,” as Impsa itself states on its Web site, are the “largest in the world,” it is precisely because of this that only an irresponsible government such as Venezuela’s would hand over the manufacturing contract to a new entrant in the specialized world of large hydroelectric turbines.”

Technical issues aside, the most controversial point of the contract between Edelca and Impsa is whether it was financed or not, by the Argentine-Venezuelan trust created in 2004 by the Chávez and Néstor Kirchner governments. The press release sent on Monday by Impsa to a number of newspapers is precise: “the financing for the project did not come from the Venezuelan-Argentine Fund.”

However, in Poleo’s view “in its inception it is,” and backs his argument on the partial transcription of a letter sent to Freddy Balzán (at that time Venezuela’s ambassador to Argentina) dated August 19, 2004, by “José Ernesto Rodríguez, Impsa’s development manager, according to the letterhead.” According to Poleo, the letter states in its second paragraph: “the reason for this trip (next week to Venezuela) is the agreement signed there by Edelca and Impsa as well as by the governments of Argentina and Venezuela, which states in the addenda signed by both presidents is included the feasibility of analyzing the possibility of getting the power station going and finance it through the Fund available through the sale of fuel to Argentina and making use of the funds required for the project which are some US$142 million.”  The Venezuelan engineer commented further: “due to the bad Spanish in which it is written, it is not certain whether the money refers to that in the Fund, or the estimated value of the Impsa contract.”

What is clear is from the text of the letter is that the agreement already had “an encounter point,” a euphemism used in the Venezuelan-Argentine contracts to mean that it already has Chávez’s political and economic approval. Finally, Poleo says that although Enrique Pescarmona’s company may have stated that “the José Ernesto Rodríguez referred to in media reports stopped working for Impsa in August 2006” there is “retroactive responsibility.” It is worth noting that Rodríguez, after leaving Impsa, founded and headed Madero Trading, the company that charged a commission of three percent to the Argentine agricultural machinery manufacturers that wanted to sell their goods to Venezuela.

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