Brazil's 8GW Tapajós hydro still on 'planning radar'

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Brazil's state-run power group Eletrobras has raised the prospect of reviving the stalled 8GW São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric project in the Amazon rainforest.

But any decision to resurrect plans for one of Latin America's biggest power generation projects would not be made for at least six years, according to Eletrobras CEO Wilson Ferreira.

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"We are analyzing several projects beyond 2022 and chief among them is Tapajós, with an aim to utilize our hydroelectric capacity," Ferreira said at an event in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

The comments came almost four months after Brazil's environmental watchdog rejected a permit for the plant amid fierce opposition from environmental campaigners and local residents.

See Brazil's top early-stage hydroelectric projects here:

According to public prosecutors the plant would destroy three indigenous communities near the town of Itaituba, in the northern state of Pará.

Brazil's Funai indigenous foundation has said the homes of more than 10,000 Munduruku natives would be threatened by the plant.

Ferreira's remarks were backed up by Luiz Barroso, the head of the government's EPE energy planning agency, who said large-scale hydroelectric dams could still feature in Brazil's long-term plans.

"We are going have a discussion with society and once again place hydroelectric plants on the planning radar so that we can make a pragmatic decision," Barroso said. "If it is possible to build hydroelectric plants, we will do it. If not, we will look for alternatives and carry on."

Requiring estimated investment of 30bn reais (US$8.7bn), São Luiz do Tapajós was to be the centerpiece of an 11GW mega-dam complex proposed for the Tapajós and Jamanxim rivers.

The government suspended a planned tender to build the facility in 2014 pending new environmental and social impact studies.

Eletrobras heads the consortium responsible for the project, with other stakeholders including EDF, Camargo Corrêa, Cemig, Copel, Engie, Endesa and Neoenergia.