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Brazil government sees no end to energy rationing Updated: Mon, Sep 03 8:12 PM EDT
BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - There is still no estimate as to when Brazil can end a debilitating energy rationing program, the head of the government's task force dealing with the country's worst energy crisis in decades said Monday.
The rationing, which started in June and obliges households and businesses to cut 20 percent of their consumption, was initially expected to last only through November. But that is not guaranteed.
"There is as yet no kind of forecast about the end of the rationing," said President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's chief-of-staff Pedro Parente.
"The chamber will continue to monitor reserve levels at hydroelectric dams," said Parente, who is head of the government's chamber dealing with the energy crisis.
Failure to reach consumption reductions could lead the government to resort to unpredictable, rolling blackouts.
The crisis was caused by the worst drought in decades, which has dried up water supplies at the hydroelectric power plants that supply more than 90 percent of Brazil's electricity.
"Any decision (about the end of rationing) will be strictly technical and not political," Parente added.
Daily O Globo reported Monday the government was considering ending the rationing program in time for the summer, when lower consumption levels will be especially unpopular due to consumers having to control use of air conditioning to cool down.
There are presidential elections next year.
Cardoso said in a televised address on Saturday that financial awards for consumers who save energy will be expanded to more consumers.
In June and July, consumption rationing beat the 20 percent target. But in August, Brazilians cut consumption by between 18.5 percent and 19.6 percent across the country -- below the 20 percent target.
Parente said early rains in some parts of the country had helped fill reserves in August. But it was too early to drop the guard as the dry season will still continue for another month in most of the country.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 07, 2001