The Republic of Venezuela covers an area of 916,729km2 in the northern part of South America. The most important river basins are: Orinoco, Caribbean Sea, Lake Valencia, Esequibo and Amazon. The main tributaries of the Orinoco are the Apure, Caura and Caroní rivers.

The climate is characterised by hot weather throughout the year, with two distinct seasons: a rainy season between May and October, and a dry season from November to April. The climate is influenced by the equatorial trade winds. Average annual precipitation is 1705mm; the total run-off is 1180 x 109m3.

Population was estimated in 2000 to be 24.1M, with 84% living in urban areas and 16% in rural areas.

Per capita electrical power consumption is 2530kWh/yr.

The main sources of energy are: gas (48%), oil (22%) and hydro (30%). Electricity production is 76% from hydro power, and 24% thermal. (year 2000)

There is a national grid, and 90% of the country’s capacity is grid connected. Power plants are owned and operated by both public (88 %) and private (12%) enterprises.

The gross theoretical hydro power potential of Venezuela is 345,000GWh/yr, of which 260,720GWh/yr was estimated (in 1981) to be technically feasible for development. The economically feasible hydroelectric potential is around 100,000GWh/yr.

Only about 21%of the technical feasible potential has been developed so far. Hydro power currently accounts for 62% (13.,75MW) of the country’s total installed capacity of 21,194MW. A further 2160MW of hydro capacity is under construction at present, and 2674MW is planned.

Venezuela’s largest hydro plants in operation, Their installed capacities and 2000 generation figures are:

•Guri dam (9588MW, 46,000GWh).

•Macagua (2917MW, 15,076GWh).

•San Agatón (300MW, 958GWh).

•Planta Páez (240MW, 609GWh).

The most important scheme now under construction is Caruachi (2160MW), which will be commissioned in 2003. Annual generation from the operation of all hydro plants is 62,885GWh/yr (2000).

At present, five of the ten 700MW units of Guri’s power house No2 are being refurbished; the unit runners will be replaced for a power increase of approximately 4% in each one of them.