HAVANA, July 14 (Reuters) - Cuba’s power consumption jumped 4.8 percent in 2015, official data showed on Thursday, days after the government announced sharp energy cuts due to a cash crunch and declining oil imports from Venezuela.
A breakdown of the data showed that residential power usage ballooned 66.5 percent over the last decade, compared with a 9.6 percent rise for the state sector. On average, power consumption grew 32.2 percent between 2005 and 2015.
Jorge Pinon, an expert on Cuban energy at the University of Texas in Austin, said this was likely due in part to the growth of the private sector. Many Cubans set up businesses in their homes or on their front porches.
The hospitality sector was also guzzling more power as greater numbers of tourists flocked to the Caribbean island in the wake of its detente with the United States.
Cuba consumed in total 20,288 gigawatt-hours last year (GWh), up from 15,341 GWh in 2005. Power usage typically peaks in the summer months of July and August when air conditioners and fans are running full blast.
“Cuba’s electric power generation and transmission system might be at capacity due to increased demand from the hospitality industry and private residential sector and high demand due to summer’s temperatures,” Pinon said.
Analysts say Cuba has not done enough to increase its power generation capacity in recent years and diversify its energy sources, despite forays into renewable energy.
Cuba is heavily reliant on cheap oil from socialist ally Venezuela, and uses that oil partly to generate electricity.
But Venezuelan shipments of crude oil and refined products to Cuba declined around 20 percent in the first half of this year, Reuters reported last week.
Given a lack of hard currency to import from elsewhere, the government announced on Friday it was drastically cutting electricity this year and reducing fuel consumption by 28 percent through the end of 2016.
Many workers in the state sector are being sent home early due to power rationing, while others have to swelter in the tropical heat without fans or air conditioning.
Cuba has a long history of energy rationing, but the extent of these cuts and concerns over Venezuela have raised fear among people of a return to the 1990s when long blackouts were common.
“They say the blackouts that lasted for hours and hours are going to return,” said retiree Teresa Perez, shopping at a supermarket in Havana. “It would be horrible.”
Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Jonathan Oatis