How to confront water crises
Updated: Aug 17, 2021
Brazil is once again going through the drama of a water crisis, which has a direct impact not only on water consumption, but also on the cost of electricity. Experts connected to iCS offer their opinions
Ongoing actions in the federal government and in Congress may not only raise (significantly) the cost of energy for the productive sector and final consumers, but also place the country into a situation of energy insecurity. They are: the subsidy for coal in the Provisional Measure (MP) for the Water Crisis and the alterations in the MP that enable the privatization of Eletrobrás. Amanda Ohara, José Goldemberg and Luiz Barata show in the study/article “Confronting water crises: The role of renewable energy in building a more resilient and lower cost electricity matrix” that there are other alternatives.
“At the current moment of water crisis and the dismantling of the organization of the energy sector in Brazil, some warnings are necessary for Brazilian society. The first is that the country cannot give up a structured planning for its electricity sector, which is the basis for the development of a sustainable and economically efficient economy. This structure has been put at risk by current setbacks, represented, for example, by the amendments included in the MP for Eletrobras, which impose expansion alternatives to the electrical system that are not the best from any perspective, be it economic, environmental or social benefits.
The second, equally important, is that expansion based on fossil fuel thermal power plants is not the way to prepare the Brazilian electricity sector for future water crises, which tend to be more frequent due to the global climate change that we are already experiencing. Although confronting the current crisis depends on the activation of thermal power plants, this emergency solution cannot be confused with long-term solutions. There are more suitable options for the expansion of the system that make it more secure and resilient, without these significant increases in tariffs for consumers as is happening now,” begins the executive summary. It continues:
"As recommendations, the document points to: 1) the urgency to reestablish and preserve the role of institutions in the Brazilian electricity sector, 2) the review of the role of hydroelectric generation in Brazil, taking into consideration its expansion possibilities and also reversible hydroelectric plants as resources; 3) the prioritization in establishing appropriate economic signals in the electricity market, allowing the best technologies to be competitively integrated into the system. This includes the approval of the Reform of the Electricity Sector, in progress since 2016 at the National Congress; and, finally, 4) the methodological update of the planning of the electricity sector, in order to adequately represent the available alternatives and their systemic costs and benefits.”