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Abundant clean electricity fuel’s Brazil’s growth

September 12, 2013 at 10:55 am | News Desk

Helena

Helena Lobato da Jornada

In the late 1990’s, Brazil endured a rigorous blackout, which left almost 90 million people in the dark for some hours. It was the first precursor of the chink in Brazilian energy system’s armor, caused by a combination of drought, bad planning and years of lack of serious investment in the energy structure of the country. With a series of massive investments and a wide-spread public awareness campaign, Brazil was able to overcome those “dark moments” and now, a decade later, enjoys a very comfortable energy situation. Pakistan could certainly take benefit from some of the Brazilian examples to overcome its energy crisis. Brazil has done it, Pakistan can also do it.

Brazil, as Pakistan, has many different kinds of water formations, which can easily be transformed into an efficient source of energy. The Brazilian energy matrix relies mainly on this kind of energy, hydropower, which accounts for almost 70% of the production of electric energy in the country. In the beginning of 2013, the installed capacity of electric power generation in Brazil was of 121,000 MW, of which 84,000 MW came from hydropower plants. Overall, almost 90% of the electric energy produced in Brazil is renewable, against only 20% of the world’s average.Hydropower in Brazil comes not only from massive projects, like the Itaipu dam (which produces more than 14.000 MW), but also from very smalls hydropower plants, which are able to produce the amount of needed energy for small communities with a low social and environmental impact.

Brazil dam  For the generation of electric energy, Brazil is also investing heavily in other renewable sources, such as wind power. Although it still does not count for much of the energy matrix, the numbers are quite impressive, as wind power production grew 24.2% from 2010 to 2011. Brazil hosts the ideal conditions for the production of wind power and many new wind farms are being built. Investment in this area is proving to be extremely attractive, especially because it also counts with the support from the Bank of Brazil and the National Bank for Social and Economic Development.

The support of the Federal Government and the emphasis on large scale investments to overcome the energy crisis played an essential role in Brazil. It was only through public incentives that the private sector and international investors were able to see Brazil as a lucrative alternative. Also, Brazil has established a research and regulatory structure which enabled the country to focus on specific policies. In this sense, not only the general production of
energy increased in the last few years, but also the productivity, meaning that energy production in Brazil is becoming more efficient.

Brazil also has one of the world’s most successful experiences in the field of biofuels. The countryis the largest exporter of ethanol, a biofuel produced indigenously since 1974 from sugarcane, in a sustainable and efficient way. Due to some strict policies and to the agro-ecological zoning determined by the Brazilian government, sugarcane can only be produced in specific regions, far from the Amazon, in order not to invade any forest or reserved area. The region of São Paulo and its surroundings is where the majority of the sugarcane plantations are actually located, not occupying more than 1.4% of the country’s agricultural area. The energy and environmental balance of sugarcane fuel makes it one of the world’s most efficient and sustainable sources of energy.

23The Brazilian production of ethanol totaled 27.6 billion liters in 2010 – an increase of 7% over the previous year. According to estimates by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, it could reach 64 billion liters in 2019. It is important to stress that the increase on the amount of ethanol produced was due much more to the increase in productivity than to the expansion of cultivated areas, which proves that it can be sustainable.

Besides the export potential, there is great demand for biofuels in the domestic market. Brazil is a pioneer in the development of the flex fuel technology, which was launched in 2003 and allows cars to run on both gasoline and ethanol in any proportion. Currently, multinational car assembly corporations produce nearly 100 different models of flex-fuel cars in Brazil, thus ensuring the country the largest fleet of flex-fuel cars in the world. Between 2003 and 2010, 12.5 million flex-fuel vehicles were sold, with an estimated participation of 39% in the total light vehicle fleet.

Ethanol is a green-fuel from scratch, as it generates 90% less emission of greenhouse gases as compared to gasoline. With the development of new technologies, ethanol from sugarcane is expected to record negative emissions. The benefits start at the very root of the cycle: ethanol from sugarcane generates approximately nine times more renewable energy than the fossil energy used in its production, while ethanol produced from corn yields only 1.4 units of renewable energy for every fossil energy unit used in its production process.

Brazil is also the third largest consumer of biodiesel in the world. The 2004 National Program for Biodiesel Production and Usage (PNPB) mandates the gradual mixture of alternative fuel with diesel.A special program for the sustainable production of palm oil was also launched in May 2010. The palm oil program includes an agro-ecological zoning initiative and offers an interesting alternative for deforested areas in the Amazon region. Additionally, this initiative has a very important social aspect, as the crops for the production of biodiesel can be cultivated in small properties. Thus, the production of this kind of fuel is not only environmentally friendly, but also economically viable and socially relevant. Through these governmental programs, biodiesel production is actually being used as a tool to foster social development.

Brazil’s success story may be a good example for Pakistan, a country that, like many others, struggles with energy problems that affect people’s lives and the economy as a whole. Following some of Brazil’s strategies like focusing on a varied energy mix; investing in hydropower; investing in new and sophisticated technologies and fostering the use and development of new energy sources, such as biofuels, will be a good slant for Pakistan to begin unraveling its energy conundrum in order to start a brighter period of its history.

Helena Lobato da Jornada is the Head of the Commercial, Press and Energy Section in the Embassy of Brazil in Pakistan.

News Desk

Economic Affairs Editor

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