Low water levels at the Guri hydroelectric reservoir in Venezuela have forced the country’s government to ration electricity.

A government decree that came into effect at the beginning of January requires a 20 per cent reduction in electricity consumption, and the state-owned power company Corpoelec has been charged with implementing it.

The move follows months of regular blackouts in some parts of the country. Late last year the country’s President, Hugo Chavez, created a new Electrical Energy Ministry in an attempt to overcome shortages.

Under the new decree, commercial and industrial consumers have to submit reports to Corpoelec detailing plans for reducing consumption. A programme to implement the use of energy saving lightbulbs has also been implemented alongside restrictions on the use of lighting for billboards and advertising.

Low levels of rainfall in 2009 have caused the water levels at the 10 GW Guri plant – which supplies three-quarters of the country’s power – to fall to emergency levels.