Understand: Climate crisis changes energy map in Brazil – 05/26/2023 – Environment

Understand: Climate crisis changes energy map in Brazil – 05/26/2023 – Environment

Specialists in the field of climate and energy are joining efforts to mobilize public agencies to
review the planning of electricity generation in Brazil considering projections of climatic stresses. The scenarios point to longer droughts, with lots of sun and winds, in the North and Northeast, and abundant rain in the South. It would be like experiencing the El Niño phenomenon for longer periods of time.

Projections indicate that the increase in temperature in Brazil will be higher than the global average. The increase tends to be at least 4°C on average, which will compromise a pillar of energy generation in the country, hydroelectric plants.

The scenarios are contained in the report “Vulnerability of the Brazilian electricity sector in the face of the global climate crisis and adaptation proposals”. The document was launched this Friday (26) by ClimaInfo, on behalf of the Clean Energy Coalition.

About half of Brazil’s supply comes from hydroelectric plants, which also guarantee power and stability to the system, working as a support to avoid power outages. These plants already suffer from temperature variations. The drought from 2014 to 2015 weakened most of the rivers. In 2021, basins were punished by the worst water crisis in the last 90 years.

“Records show that extreme weather events are increasing, both in frequency and magnitude,” says one of the report’s researchers, Lincoln Muniz Alves, from INPE (National Institute for Space Research), who also served as lead author of the Sixth Report. Assessment of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Experts, however, claim that there is resistance from the government and other electrical system planners to changing models in the sector. An example is the posture in relation to thermals.

Since the historic supply crisis in 2000, when the water dried up in the hydroelectric reservoirs, blackout insurance has been provided by thermal plants powered by fossil fuels. The system made Brazilian energy more expensive, but avoided shortages.

The report rejects this traditional outlet, including gas-fired power plants. Following the global trend, it recommends the elimination of this source by 2050. The government is currently doing exactly the opposite, concentrating efforts to increase the number of gas thermal plants, build gas pipelines and open a new exploration frontier on the equatorial margin.

“Brazil lost the window of gas and oil and is trying to recover it now, when the world has already entered renewables”, says José Wanderley Marangon, R&D secretary at Inel (National Institute for Clean Energy).

Experts believe that investing in solar and wind is the most appropriate alternative when combating climate change requires restricting greenhouse gas emissions, and they hope to sensitize Brazilian regulators at this time of change.

“Between 2014 and 2015, after extensive research, we issued a warning about climate dynamics, which had not been considered in the planning of the electricity sector or by the Ministry of Mines and Energy. I would say that, now, the yellow light has been turned on”, says Marangon.

According to the study, the increase in droughts and winds, in the North and Northeast, naturally favors the expansion of renewable sources. They already represent almost 25% of the country’s generation, and their projects are concentrated in these areas. But since nothing is as simple as it seems, this advantage also poses challenges.

“If the generating complex is going to grow in the North and Northeast, then it will be necessary to expand even more investments in the transmission system to transport this energy to the rest of the country”, explains Luiz Eduardo Barata, president of the National Front of Energy Consumers, that supports the report.

Solar radiation tends to increase, which will demand increasingly resistant photovoltaic panels. The winds can be much stronger, so the support structures of the parks will also need to be reinforced. Unexpectedly stronger winds have already hurled slabs at projects in the region.

On the other hand, the more arid climate limits the construction of new plants without reservoirs, the so-called run-of-river plants. This is the case of the Tapajós river complex, with a set of plants in Pará, which specialists recommend that it be shelved.

In severe droughts during the summer, these plants also tend to demand a greater volume of rainwater to recover and return to full load. Belo Monte, Santo Antonio and Girau are run-of-river plants that today supplement the system’s supply in the middle of the year, when it rains in the North region, but it is a dry period in the central region of the country and in the Southeast, where the largest centers are located. consumers.

One suggestion to prolong the operation of medium and small hydroelectric plants and power plants in more critical periods is to convert them to operate as pumped storage plants. Roughly speaking, they adopt an internal system that returns water to the reservoir for continuous use.

In the south, the forecast is for more rain. But the future of Itaipu and a series of 40 plants on the Paraná River is uncertain. The basin is in the South Atlantic Convergence Zone, where climate models differ in terms of increasing or decreasing rainfall.

There is also no closed conclusion about the climate in the Southeast, although the researchers identified a tendency to droughts and temperature rise.

“This is a transition region, with no defined climate, where phenomena with characteristics both in the South and in parts of the North and Northeast can occur”, says researcher Muniz Alves. .”It’s a kind of gray area, which presents challenges for science when we want to make projections.”

The Southeast is strategic in the case of hydroelectric plants. There are, for example, the plants of Rio Grande, Furnas, Água Vermelha, Mascarenhas de Moraes and Maribondo, considered the vital part of the water tank in Brazil. Without rain in this set, the supply is uncertain.

In droughts, experts believe, it is necessary to strengthen the supply coming from other regions, but also to reinforce and make a finer management of the so-called DG (distributed generation). Basically, in Brazil, it corresponds to supply via solar panels installed on the roofs of homes or businesses, or on farms in inland areas.

Specialists also state that it is necessary to invest in the formation of solar energy stocks with the large-scale adoption of batteries, which are currently rare, as well as to reinforce investments in hydrogen, particularly in green.

Barata, one of the most experienced technicians in the energy sector, points out that it is not an easy task to coordinate the electrical system with so many new variables, but the challenge is set and needs to be faced.

“The system operator can manage and coordinate the operation of hydroelectric and thermal plants, but cannot do the same, with the current model, for solar and wind”, he says. “The sector’s complexity has increased, and we have to debate new solutions.”

The entities’ evaluation is that, as at this moment there is abundant rain, there is time to plan these and other changes.

“It is the ideal moment to rethink what we want for the energy sector and review its framework, and, as civil society, we believe that we can contribute to this debate and we seek dialogue with the public authorities”, says Carolina Marçal, an analyst at Instituto ClimaInfo .

In addition to the entity, members of the Coalizão Energia Limpa are IED (Brazilian Institute of Consumer Protection), Iema (Institute of Energy and Environment), Inesc (Institute of Socioeconomic Studies), Arayara International Institute and Pólis Institute.

The Planeta em Transe project is supported by the Open Society Foundations.

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