Image: Minas San Francisco hydropower plantcourtesy of Integral Consulting Engineers

The Electric Corporation of Ecuador (CELEC EP) has devised an Institutional Contingency Plan to ensure uninterrupted operation of the Minas San Francisco hydropower plant during the presence of the El Niño phenomenon. This strategic plan, developed by the CELEC SUR Business Unit, outlines various measures to guarantee the supply of electrical energy in the country.

Key actions identified in the plan include expedited maintenance of access roads leading to the powerhouse, reservoir, elevation substation, and other crucial areas essential for the plant's operation. These efforts are aimed at facilitating the movement of technicians and operators to ensure smooth functioning of the 270MW power plant. The Minas San Francisco Power Plant, situated on the western slope near the Pacific, plays a critical role in providing energy during the dry season on the Amazon slope, where CELEC EP operates the majority of its hydroelectric plants.

It is important to note that contingency plans for communities and populations located along the banks of the Jubones River will be managed by the institutions comprising the provincial COE (Emergency Operations Committee): Provincial Government, Municipalities, Parish Councils, and the Secretariat of Risk Management.

In relation to the Minas San Francisco dam reservoir, Paúl Vásquez, manager of the CELEC SUR Business Unit, emphasized that its primary function is not flood control due to its limited water storage capacity. When the reservoir reaches its partial capacity and experiences a flood, it quickly reaches maximum capacity within a few hours. In such cases, the excess flow is released through the gates. Downstream of the dam, the Jubones River receives significant contributions from tributaries like Chillayacu, Vivar, Mollepungo, Casacay, Huizho, Quera, and Galayacu during the winter season, which further affects the flow reaching lower-lying areas.

Addressing concerns raised by local authorities, CELEC SUR participated in a meeting called by the Mayor's Office of Pasaje on June 20. During the meeting, the characteristics of the plant and the operational principles of the Minas San Francisco dam were presented to the attendees. Additionally, on June 28, 2023, officials and mayors from the Pasaje, Machala, and El Guabo cantons, along with representatives from the El Oro Prefecture, the Governor's Office of the province, and the National Secretary for Risk Management, visited the Minas San Francisco Hydroelectric Power Plant. The visit provided an opportunity to explain the operations of the power plant and address concerns related to potential flooding of the San Francisco and Jubones rivers upstream. This inter-institutional coordination has stimulated the activation of the El Oro provincial COE, bringing together all relevant stakeholders to address the anticipated impacts of the El Niño phenomenon on the Jubones River.