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    A Sustainable Energy Plan for Brazil?

    By Keith R | November 28, 2006

    Topics: Biofuels, Climate Change, Economics & the Environment, Energy & the Environment, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection, Renewable Sources | 6 Comments »

          
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    The National Energy Plan Through 2030The Government’s Energy Vision

    Last Wednesday Brazil’s Energy Research Corporation (EPE) released the National Energy Plan 2030, the government’s blueprint for energy development for the next 24 years. The EPE is a subsidiary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), charged with energy planning.

    The principal theme of the plan can be found in its subtitle: “Strategy for Expanding Supply.” The government proposes a huge increase in supply, arguing that its scenarios forecast a tripling of current consumption by 2030. EPE bases the projection on the assumption that Brazil’s population will increase 53 million by 2030 (more than the entire population of Spain, and equivalent to the current population of Brazil’s entire Northeast region!), the economy will have an annual growth rate of 4.1% and energy demand will grow at an annual average rate of 3.5%.

    EPE's Projected Changes in Brazil's Energy Mix
    Projected Changes in Brazil’s Energy Mix
    (click to enlarge)

    EPE predicts that only 10% of this new demand will be met through energy savings measures, and another 10% through self-generation (off-grid generation). In order to meet the rest of the projected demand, EPE calls for

    Strangely enough, the EPE plan does not see much of a role for solar, even though a report released earlier this year by the European Photovoltaics Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace suggests that photovoltaic production in Brazil can produce as much as 2,000 MW by 2025.

    They Beg to Differ

    Environment and consumer nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as many groups involved with energy conservation, energy efficiency and alternative energy sources, are not happy with the EPE blueprint and plan to do what they can to convince President Lula and Congress to choose a substantially different path.

    cover of

    Their tug-of-war with EPE has been going on for months, but came to a head in September-October, when WWF-Brasil, backed by a coalition of NGOs*, released “Agenda Elétrica Sustentável 2020” (“Sustainable Power Agenda 2020”), their own blueprint for a sustainable energy policy for Brazil achievable by 2020. Click on the image of the report’s cover at right in order to download a PDF of the entire report in Portuguese. A PDF of an executive summary in English can be downloaded at this link.

    When presented in Brasilia, the report was praised by the Secretary-General of the Environment Ministry (MMA) and a representative of the State Environment Secretariat of São Paulo (SMA). For his part, the MME Minister welcomed the report as a way to open a public debate. However, his colleague, EPE President Maurício Tolmasquim questioned the indices (growth rates, hydroelectric potential, etc.) utilized as the basis for the report. He called the report’s suggestion of growth without building more hydroelectric plants as “a utopia that will take the country to non-development [sic].” “They are dangerous studies for the country. We cannot deceive the Brazilian populace.”

    In the weeks that followed WWF issued a public letter attacking Tolmasquim’s stance, and he issued a public refutation and rebuke, along with his arguments as to why the WWF scenario was unrealistic and EPE’s blueprint was pragmatic.

    How do the two visions differ (other than the fact that EPE’s time horizon is 2030 and WWF’s is 2020) and why has Tolmasquim been so critical?

    A Fundamental Difference about Energy Savings

    A fundamental difference is that WWF et al envision substantially lower demand if Brazil pursues an aggressive energy conservation and energy efficiency strategy. WWF says whereas Brazil’s power consumption would reach about 800 gigawatt (GW) by 2020 if Brazil continues a “business as usual” (BAU) pathway, it claims Brazil would limit that to under 500 GW if it fully embraced energy savings/efficiency (click on graphs at right to see a larger version).

    Where does WWF think the savings will come?

    Tolmasquim has strongly contested WWF’s energy savings claims — all the more biting, since he was a founder of the National Institute of Energy Efficiency (INEE, one of the sponsors of the WWF study), and a consultant to Brazil’s national energy savings program, PROCEL. WWF’s claims “exceed even the most optimistic projections.” He particularly attacked claimed savings for switching to solar water heating, for reducing transmission line losses and for refurbishing hydroelectric plants.

    Less Traditional, More Alternative

    The other fundamental difference between the EPE and WWF visions is the energy mix itself. WWF goes to great lengths to make the case that more coal-fired, natural gas, large hydroelectric and nuclear power plants are not needed and — if aggressively backed and promoted — wind, solar, PCH and biomass (particularly sugar bagasse-fired co-generation) can meet most of the growing demand. WWF envisions some 50 GW from biomass by 2020 (much higher than the 6.4 GW foreseen by EPE in 2030), 30 GW for wind (EPE sees only 4.7 GW), 30 GW for PCH (EPE sees on 7.8 GW) and 2.5 GW for photovoltaics (EPE largely ignores these).

    WWF et al argue their vision will result in substantial cost savings (click on bar graph at right to view), reduce the large public debt involved in huge new hydro and nuclear plants, create more jobs (10 million rather than 3.5 million under the BAU scenario), help keep Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 and NOx) stable at 2004 levels (click on line graph at right to view), reduce dependency on “unstable” foreign natural gas suppliers, and reduce new inundation of lands by a factor of seven (with the lower socioeconomic impacts that implies).

    Tolmasquim (not surprisingly) disputes all the cost savings, job creation, CO2 and NOx calculations, dismisses a Brazilian energy future without taking advantage of its hydroelectric potential, and accuses WWF and its allies of seeking to condemn Brazil to a low-growth economic path that does nothing to redress Brazil’s skewed income distribution.

    [His argument for the latter, however, seem shaky to me, as they are posited on the assumption that “development” and a reasonable standard of living for a majority of Brazilians is directly dependent on Brazil matching current Western European per capita energy intensity levels. Perhaps a reader with a stronger economics background than I can comment on the strengths and weaknesses of this reasoning. Perhaps it’s too simplistic, but it seems wrong to me to assume that the path to good quality of life for most Brazilians must be as energy-intensive as Europe’s.]

    Whither Brazil?

    Will the WWF energy vision eventually prevail in Brasilia? Probably not — at least not in the scale of energy conservation and portion of generation through renewable sources it envisions, nor in its emphasis on avoiding nuclear, natural gas and large hydro projects. That would mean prevailing over very powerful vested interests and an Energy Minister that does not agree with most of WWF’s arguments and conclusions. Furthermore, Lula — to the consternation of even some members of his own party (PT) — has repeatedly shown interest in pursuing nuclear, natural gas and large hydro options and embraced Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s vision of a transcontinental pipeline.

    WWF and its allies do present some policy ideas which are worth considering, even if the potential benefits were overstated. In addition to the savings and efficiency measures outlined above, the report suggests:

    While it may be a waste of time for NGOs to lobby directly to change the mind of the Planalto or MME, they might be able to enlist MMA, some key state environment agencies, and enough members of Congress (which is even less beholden to Lula now than in his first term) to champion some of their proposals to see them become official policy and/or law — particularly if they can gather enough business allies (such as sugar producers and other potential biomass suppliers).

    — Keith R

    * Consumer Defense Institute (IDEC); the Brazilian Association of Energy Conservation Service Firms (ABESCO); Brazilian Center for Wind Power (CBEE); the Brazilian Association of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Ventilation and Heating (ABRAVA); the Paulista Association of Energy Cogeneration (COGEN-SP); the São Paulo Sugarcane Agroindustry Union (UNICA); the Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements for the Environment and Development (FBOMS); National Energy Efficiency Institute (INEE).

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    6 Responses to “A Sustainable Energy Plan for Brazil?”

    1. biofuelsimon Says:

      It is also good to see that the share of wood and non-sustainable sources of energy is planned to fall in the energy mixture… of course, whether it does or not remains to be seen…

    2. Keith R Says:

      Hi Simon. Welcome to the Temas Blog and thanks for commenting and for mentioning me on your blog (which I linking to, since biofuels is such a hot subject in LAC nations). I hope you visit and comment often; all constructive feedback is welcome here, but I would especially appreciate your insights on any biofuel-related item I post on (such as the Ecopetrol story above, for example).

      While I too welcomed the NPE 2030’s emphasis on dropping consumption of wood and vegetable-based charcoal as fuel sources, I was puzzled by its relatively weak vision (compared to the government’s rhetoric in the past 4 yrs) for biodiesel and biomass co-generation.

      I was even more confounded by its near dismissal of Brazil’s enormous solar & wind potential and its downplaying of the possibilities for energy efficiency savings. One thing I forgot to mention in my article is that the NPE envisions getting most of the energy efficiency gains in the residential sector, which is strange when the real big gains are more likely in motors in the industrial sector and building energy efficiency…

      Brazil is one country that has the necessary tools in place (a fairly solid national energy efficiency law, a labeling system, a testing and certification authority (INMETRO) with substantial experience in this particular area, a good R&D and testing infrastructure, etc.) to realize significant gains in a short time frame. The Lula Administration needs to make better use of that than they have so far, in my opinion.

      Best Regards,
      Keith

    3. Saulo Cruz Says:

      The energy used in Brazil, depending on investment, can be regarded as a great national prosperity, in various senses, or can also be taken as something ecologically incorrect, even with economic improvement. With investments in renewable energy resources, the government can supply national needs, keep the economy stable and, most importantly, preserve the environment. This post was very informative.

    4. Brazil and biofuels, looking to the future | The Big Biofuels Blog Says:

      […] and “sugarcane products” (i.e., bioethanol and combusting bagasse for power generation) in the country’s latest strategic energy plan, according to the Temas Blog. The Portuguese version is here. The blog explains that there is a […]

    5. wdson filipe Says:

      Making investments in nuclear energy in Brazil is pure stupidity, we have to prove Angra al. Apart from the fact that it is now creates a problem. Even greater in the future (discarding the redidual produced, the risk of leaks, etc) Renewable energy is the best option, but the Brazilian government in its eagerness to achieve a position of self-sufficiency in energy and unsustainable growth continues, tends pretending blind. As mentioned here in Brazil we have a “gigantic white elephant” that is called Angra, which represents a small amount of energy production in the country. What I do not understand is: If Brazil has already spent billions of dollars on nuclear energy (Angra) and still did not get a good result, because they continue this policy of investments in this area?

    6. Mateus Diniz Says:

      To get Sustainable Energy in Brazil you have to take some things into consideration. First it is necessary to protect and manage natural resources at the same time as it promotes social and economic development. However, this has to happen without forgetting the human part and the need for economic advancement, in addition to adopting a posture that guarantees the supply of electricity and reducing the use of fossil fuels, is contributing positively to society and to the planet.
      But it occurs to Sustainable Energy in Brazil is essential to establish conditions for sustainability. A kind of dialogue with the population in order to build a close relationship with the community, governments and other stakeholders in the project. For it has the support of all.

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