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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Brazil power rationing starts
Workers from an electrical appliance factory hold candles as they protest the government's rationing plan
Electrical appliance factory workers protest the rationing
By Tom Gibb in Sao Paulo

Electricity rationing comes into effect in Brazil on Friday designed to prevent blackouts due to a severe power shortage created by lack of rain.

Brazil relies largely on hydroelectric power but a drought has left many reservoirs very low.

Critics blame the government for not investing enough in power or making alternative arrangements.

Sao Paolo skyline
It is unclear whether the rationing can be enforced
The rationing plan calls for both for industry and consumers to make cuts in the use of electricity.

The poorest households which use very little power are exempt, but others have to cut usage by 20% or else face having their electricity cut off for up to six days and heavy surcharges.

Industry also has to make reductions.

Court challenge

It remains to be seen if the plan can be enforced. In practice, electricity companies say they don't have the manpower to cut off many individual households.

The rationing plan is also being challenged in the courts and may be declared unconstitutional.

But the threat has already led to reductions in usage almost in line with the government's quotas. In many areas use of street lighting has been reduced.

There are no evening football matches and shopping malls and banks are also altering their opening hours.

The government hopes that it may be able to avoid blackouts but even so the economy is being affected, with the Brazilian currency, the real, falling to a new low against the dollar.

Rationing is expected to continue at least until November.

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See also:

19 May 01 | Americas
Brazil announces energy rationing
17 May 01 | Americas
Brazil facing football blackout
03 May 01 | Americas
Brazil's president acts over scandal
18 Apr 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Brazil
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