Brazil embraces energy efficiency

energy efficiency, electricity consumption, greenhouse gases, energy savings, private investment

Brazil will stage the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, which will put the sixth largest economy in the world in the limelight. As its economy rapidly expands, Brazil will have to cover important energy needs in the coming decades. Electricity use for instance increased by 8% between 2010 and 2011 and is estimated by the government to grow by an average 5% yearly by 2020. Although Brazil can pride itself on producing the greatest amount of electricity from renewable energy sources, with 45% of the energy it consumes coming from wind, solar, hydropower and biomass, the energy efficiency of its facilities is largely underdeveloped.

An original energy mix

Contrary to other “BRICS” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), Brazil barely uses nuclear energy, which accounts for only 3% of overall electricity production. 84% of the electricity used in Brazil in 2009 came from hydropower plants, a unique percentage among developing as well as developed countries.

There are 1025 hydropower plants in operation in Brazil in 2012 (according to the ANEEL, the National agency for electricity). This number is expected to increase, since the ten-year Energy plan of 2007 requires the construction of 71 new power plants by 2017 to reach an overall generation capacity of 390 TWh. Dams have been used since the late XIXth century, but it is not until the 1960s that the state massively invested in this technology. The Itaipu power plant alone generates 14,000 MW, that is 20% of the overall electricity consumption in Brazil. Wind also seems to be a promising energy source in a country with the largest wind energy production potential (300,000MW).

energy efficiency, electricity consumption, greenhouse gases, energy savings, private investment

The main weakness of the current energy chain is a still relatively vulnerable network, with 48 blackouts in 2008 and 91 in 2010.

Recent but ambitious energy efficiency programmes

The federal government has implemented a range of programmes since 1980, especially targeting home appliances, with a view to establish electricity consumption standards. For instance, the PBE label, created in 1984, sorts appliances according to electricity consumption patterns. This policy then evolved towards a restrictive approach curtailing electricity use, such as the federal law #10 295 on energy efficiency, which prohibits the sale of equipment whose electricity consumption patterns exceed the quotas established by the Ministry of Mines and Energy. Implementing this law supposedly has helped save 22 billion KWh since 2008.

In 2008, the president L.I. LULA signed a National Plan on Climate Change (PNMC – Plano Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima). Although its main focus is on curtailing Amazon deforestation, it also includes important commitments to energy efficiency. The programme aims at saving 109 TWh of consumed electricity by 2030, that is the equivalent of 1.06 billion tons of greenhouse gases, relying especially on a public and corporate awareness scheme.

Parallel to this, the Ministry of Mines and Energy plans to foster private investment of 3 billion dollars in energy efficiency measures by 2020 thanks to a state-sponsored lending scheme; energy savings should enable investors to pay back their debt, as in the British Green Deal.

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