BUENOS AIRES Dec 27 Argentina's Congress
approved a daylight savings measure late on Wednesday, part of
a broader government plan to conserve energy as demand for
power surges amid brisk economic growth.
Under the new law, which both houses of Congress passed the
same day, the time in Argentina will jump forward an hour
starting on Sunday. The clocks will turn back on March 16.
In the future, the government will set the dates for
daylight savings without congressional approval. Officials say
the measure is likely to take effect again next October.
The government rationed natural gas and power to major
users during the southern hemisphere's winter in June and July,
putting a temporary dent in industrial production growth to
ensure residential supplies.
Demand for power also tends to jump during the summer as
the use of air-conditioning increases.
The government unveiled its conservation strategy last
week, saying it will install energy-saving lightbulbs in public
buildings, use less air-conditioning, turn off equipment at
night, and cut decorative lighting in public spaces,
Planning Minister Julio De Vido said the government aimed
to reduce electricity use by 6 percent from the average amount
consumed in 2007.
The government also hopes to encourage Argentines to save
energy at home.
Opposition lawmakers generally supported the measure but
criticized the government while debating the bill, saying the
move was late in coming and was not enough to resolve the
country's larger energy problems, local media reported.
As demand for energy surged in recent years, Argentina was
forced to slash its natural gas exports to neighboring Chile,
increase natural gas imports from Bolivia and buy electricity
at peak times from Brazil and Uruguay.
The economy is poised to grow more than 8 percent for the
fifth straight year, rebounding from deep crisis in 2001-02.
Largely frozen public utility rates and fuel prices
dampened private investment in the energy sector, and the
government has been working to regain lost ground by expanding
and building new power plants.
(Reporting by Hilary Burke and Lucas Bergman; editing by Jim