Home Business The exponential growth of domestic solar energy will change the Brazilian model

The exponential growth of domestic solar energy will change the Brazilian model

Part of the turbine hall of the Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant


Inter Press Service — IPS — published an article on the growth of alternative energies in Brazil. Under the title “From Mega to Micro, the Transition that Will Democracy Energy in Brazil“.

According IPS, in Brazil solar power makes up a mere 0.73 percent of the total generated electricity, which is equivalent to 1,164 megawatts, according to data from ANEEL, referring to 1,445 plants of companies that use solar panels as an energy business, to sell to the market, like hydropower or thermal plants.

But it is the micro or mini-generators, which produce electricity for self-consumption in homes and companies, the so-called consumer units with distributed or decentralised generation, that present prospects for greater growth and transformation of the electrical system in Brazil.

In April there were a total of 26,620 installed consumer units, 99.3 percent producing solar power and the rest hydro, wind or thermal energy, which includes biomass. They generate a total of 317.7 megawatts, and their capacity is growing nearly threefold every year.

Solar energy’s share of Brazil’s electric mix will increase to 15 percent by 2024, estimates ANEEL, and by 2040 it will reach 32 percent, most of it generated on household rooftops, according to Bloomberg Energy’s 2017 report.

This explosive growth, involving millions of homes, businesses and public buildings, will demand, and will surely force, the elimination of hurdles standing in the way of their development, especially regulatory barriers.

In Brazil, these micro and mini-generators cannot sell their electricity, lamented Costa, an electrical engineer. Their kilowatts are incorporated into the power grid and are deducted from the total consumption by the household, company or institution.

“The future is solar, but it will be a difficult and slow process, because electricity concessionaires will not accept a new role, with a loss of market share. People will no longer be mere consumers,” predicted Joilson Costa, coordinator of the Front for a New Energy Policy for Brazil (FNPEB).

If there is a surplus, it is registered as credit to offset future consumption. It thus does not generate an income as in Germany and other European countries, where the sale of surplus energy is “another incentive that drives distributed generation,” Costa said.

But they do contribute to the family or company budget by reducing costs.

“We support solar energy because it has the lowest social and environmental impact of all sources. You can use the unused space on rooftops. That’s why we’re fighting for it to be incorporated into housing programmes and the public sector,” the activist said.

The “Energy for Life” campaign of the FNPEB, a network of dozens of social organisations, calls for incentives for distributed solar generation, as a way to strengthen the electric system and reduce poverty.

An initiative considered exemplary by Costa was the construction, in Juazeiro, a city in the northeastern state of Bahia, of two sets of “My house my life”, a government housing programme for poor families, with 9,144 photovoltaic panels installed in 1,000 houses.

The initiative of the Caixa Econômica Federal, a state bank that supports social policies, together with the private company Brasil Solair, allocates 60 percent of the product to the 1,000 families, 30 percent to improve community life with services and facilities, and ten percent for the maintenance of the equipment.

In this case there are significant surpluses, which go to the community, since it is estimated that the capacity of 2.1 megawatts can supply 3,600 homes, including in the form of monetary income.

“But it is a unique experience, a pilot project financed with non-repayable funding by the Socio-environmental Fund of the Caixa, which operates as a mini power station,” said Costa.

Formally it is the company that sells the energy generated on the rooftops leased for that purpose, in an “arrangement” that is hardly replicable, according to the activist, because it requires donations and a company that shows solidarity with the community.