The period from 1976 to 1985 saw a rapid rise in the demand for electricity and in the construction of generating facilities. During the same period, the country switched from primarily oilfired thermal plants to hydroelectric-power generation. In 1986 total generating capacity reached 1,802 megawatts, and the country produced 5,202 gigawatt-hours of electricity. Although Ecuador had a larger generating capacity from thermal plants than from hydroelectric facilities, 70 percent of the electricity produced in 1986 came from hydroelectric sources, because many of the thermal plants sat idle or underutilized. Completion of three new hydroelectric complexes under construction in the late 1980s was expected to allow complete dependence on hydroelectric sources by 1992.
The Amaluza complex on the Paute River near Cuenca offered Ecuador's largest single source of power. Current from this complex was carried to Guayaquil and to Quito via a 230-kilovolt transmission line. Disruptions of these lines caused occasional blackouts, and to provide for alternate routing, a second 230- kilovolt line was completed in 1988. Expansion of the grid continued throughout the early 1980s, until by 1984 more than half the households nationwide had access to electricity. Access for urban households considerably exceeded that for rural dwellings, however.
A government agency, the Ecuadorian Institute of Electrification (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Electrificación--Inecel), functioned as the nation's generation and transmission company. Inecel in turn sold electricity to local distribution companies over which it exercised some control through majority ownership of their stock.
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