Buenos Aires Power firm blacks out neighborhoods

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WIRE:03/15/2000 20:39:00 ET Power firm blacks out Buenos Aires neighborhoods

BUENOS AIRES, March 15 (Reuters) - Some 30,000 homes in two central Buenos Aires neighbourhoods were marooned without electricity for nearly an hour on Wednesday by a Spanish power firm recently criticised for other blackouts. Edenor, co-operated by Spain's Endesa, left residents of the Argentine capital city's Barrio Norte and Palermo areas in the dark just after 6:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) when one of its cables malfunctioned.

"The outage was due to a high tension cable going out of service that affected the Melo sub-station and left 30,000 clients without energy," said Edenor spokesman Fernando Laboure.

The lights started gradually to blink back on before being fully restored at 7:22 p.m. (2222 GMT), Laboure said.

Endesa controls Edenor and Edesur, which between them supply electricity to 14 million people in and around Buenos Aires.

The Spanish utility group, one of the world's largest, recently came under criticism for dozens of blackouts. The worst was a saga last February in which 150,000 homes, shops and offices suffered a 10-day power cut that cost Edesur $51 million in fines.

In January a source from Endesa said its two local power distributors each would invest $100 million annually for the coming five years to improve service and cater to an increasing demand for power in one of the world's largest cities.

Since it took over power distribution in the Greater Buenos Aires area in 1992, Edenor has invested $950 million locally and Edesur has put out $960 million.

The firms have blamed recent outages on technical failures and human error and claim overall power cuts have become much more infrequent since they took over the grid.

Endesa operates Edenor along with Electricite de France International (EdF). Other owners of the local energy provider include French firm Saur and Argentine oil firm Astra, which is controlled by Spain's Repsol-YPF.

Endesa took control of Edesur in 1999 via its takeover of the local company's parent, Chile's Enersis. Argentine conglomerate Perez Companc also has a stake in Edesur.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 15, 2000

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