Brazil urged to push ahead with thermal-free electricity stability

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, December 15, 2022
Brazil urged to push ahead with thermal-free electricity stability

Brazil must urgently discuss how to provide stability to its electric power system without thermal plants in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the director-president of the local energy and environmental institute Iema, André Luís Ferreira, told BNamericas. 

Among the means to achieve the goal are a redesign of the national transmission grid to optimize the flow of renewable energy, the development of projects combining wind and solar parks with batteries, the use of green hydrogen as an energy storage tool, and the creation of more flexible hydro generation models. 

“In addition, it’s necessary to define the role natural gas will play in the Brazilian energy matrix. The bet that has been made in recent years is that this industry will be leveraged by the electric power sector, with auctions aimed at hiring thermal plants to guarantee demand,” Ferreira said. 

Amid a severe drought that restricted the use of hydroelectricity, the Brazilian government hired several thermal – mostly gas-fired – plants via backup power auctions in 2021. 

Some were hired in an emergency tender with even more expensive power generation rates – projects that after delays and environmental controversies, face the risk of having their contracts canceled. 

Earlier this year, power watchdog Aneel held the first auction designed to contract gas-fired plants in accordance with the Eletrobras privatization law, which established mandatory contracting of 8GW of the source by 2030. 

Due to the water crisis, GHG emissions from thermal plants in Brazil grew 75% in 2021, according to a study released on Thursday by Iema.  

The share of fossil-fuel sources for electricity generation rose from 15% in 2020 to 20% in 2021. 

The 82 fossil fuel plants listed in the study emitted 55.6Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). 

In all, 95.8TWh of electricity were generated, of which 68.9TWh were produced from natural gas (44 plants), or 72% of the total.

Next came coal-fired generation (eight plants) which was responsible for 16.5TWh, or 17% of fossil-fuel electric power production.

Fuel oil (18 plants) and diesel oil (11 plants) accounted for 9% and 2%, respectively.

Ferreira highlighted that in 2022 Brazil will not have similar levels of emissions. 

“Fossil generation will surely decrease this year, as thermal plants dispatched less, since there was more generation available from other sources,” he said.  

As for 2023, emissions will depend on climate conditions. 

“If there’s a new severe water restriction, it's very likely that emissions will grow substantially again,” according to Ferreira.

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