MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A cold snap knocked out power for 4.7 million users in northern Mexico early on Monday, triggering a scramble by authorities to restore service and bring in extra fuel, with parts of the neighboring United States also hit hard.
Frozen pipelines and a squeeze on natural gas deliveries from Texas roiled several northern states, though by midday, service had been restored to 58% of the affected supply, Mexican national electricity grid operator CENACE said.
The outage hit about 6,950 megawatts of load, CENACE said, urging people in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa, Sonora and Tamaulipas to curb power usage.
The freeze also knocked out electricity for more than 2 million customers in Texas.
Guillermo Nevarez, a senior executive at state power utility the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE), said 4.7 million users had initially been affected by the outage and by around midday, service had been restored to almost 2.6 million of them.
The CFE vowed to use energy from other sources to help cover shortfalls, and said the recent spike in natural gas prices caused by the crunch would add 20 billion pesos to its costs. But users’ electricity rates should not be affected, it said.
To help offset the U.S. natural gas shortfall, two shipments would arrive in the ports of Manzanillo and Altamira in the next few days, said Miguel Reyes, another senior CFE executive, speaking at a virtual news conference with Nevarez.
Earlier, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador dismissed suggestions the outage could be linked to a “boycott” by private power generators upset at his plan to strengthen the CFE.
An energy nationalist, Lopez Obrador wants to bolster state control of the industry, arguing that previous governments skewed the power market in favor of the private sector.
In late December, an outage in Mexico left 10.3 million users without power for up to two hours.
(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Richard Chang and Sonya Hepinstall)