Today's ABC Color, a Paraguayan newspaper, reports that the Paraguayan Ministry of Health has warned citizens of the danger of using their air conditioner too much. The cool air, they advise, can cause respiratory diseases. Doctor Margarita Ojeda, director of the Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Respiratorias y del Ambiente (INERAM), the National Institute of Respiratory and Environmental Diseases, advises Paraguayans to turn on their air conditioners before lying down to sleep, cooling down the room, and then "maintain the temperature with the fan."
Keep in mind that night-time temperatures in Asuncion are expected to dip tonight to 88F, and that daytime temperatures are in the upper 90s and 100s.
A friend told me yesterday that they had resolved not to turn on their air conditioner but when their upstairs bedroom hit 108 they had to relent.
Interestingly, the same newspaper reports that ANDE, the national electric company, had the previous night reported a record peak in power consumption. At 10 pm last night Paraguayan consumers were using 1,830 megawatts, up from last year's peak of 1,713.
My understanding is that 100% of Paraguay's power needs are supplied by three hydroelectric plants, one of which, Itaipú, has the highest output of any power plant in the world.
But an aging distribution system means that Paraguayan consumers can't always get the maximum benefit from their dams. Transformers blow, switches fail, and inefficient power lines cause significant losses.
The coincidence of the two articles appearing on the same day was not lost on Paraguayan readers, several of whom commented that the government should just be honest about where the request for moderate air conditioner use was really coming from. A couple even challenged the Minister of Health to follow her own advice and try to get a good night's sleep.