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jan 23, 2018
Innovation and technology

Brazil could be the next big clean energy provider

As the world shifts further towards renewable energies, Brazil’s natural resource wealth could see the country in the lead. Already, a significant part of the country’s electrical energy is water-generated, while more than half of all cars on the country’s roads are fueled with sugarcane ethanol. But Brazil is also rich in two more natural resources, which could see it leap even further ahead. With wind and solar power likely to be increasingly important, Brazil is just beginning to explore its potential offerings for the renewable energy market.

Less than a decade ago, both wind and solar energy were less important in Brazil and in the wider world. But when Brazil began to explore and develop these resources at the beginning of the most recent decade, it found that it had greater potential than imagined.

Already, Brazil’s use of wind energy is far above the global average, with 41 percent of the world’s wind energy resources at present. And when it finishes installing its next 6 gigawatt plants, in addition to the 12 (GW) of capacity already standing, the plants will represent approximately 10 percent of the country’s total energy. If they are used to their full potential, they could reach up to 500 GW capacity.

Élbia Gannoum, president of Abeeólica, the Brazilian Wind Energy Association, spoke to the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) for their new series, in partnership with the BBC. “In 2012, Brazil was only the 15th country in the world in terms of installed capacity, but now we are already in the 9th position”, he explains, adding that Brazil has the 5th highest investment in the industry compared to other countries.

“The market and capacity installed will continue to grow at least for the next 15 or 20 years and in 2022 wind power should be the second most important source of energy in Brazil, behind only hydropower”, he adds.

And Brazil’s strong, steady winds are already attracting international investments. “Brazil is a latecomer, but it is particularly rich when it comes to those resources and that helps a lot”, explains Adriano Pires, an energy consultant from the private Brazilian Centre for Infra-Structure, in the series. Italy’s Enel Group is already developing both wind and solar projects in the Brazilian Northeast, and is among more than 1,000 such companies doing so across the country.

Meanwhile solar energy is following a similar trajectory for Brazil. In 2012, Brazil only had a few private solar grids, but this had already begun to change drastically by 2013. Now, the country has more than 100 times the number of grids it had just a few years ago, with companies seeing huge potential across the country.

“Brazil has finally woken up to the solar energy potential”, says Brazilian Association for Solar Energy (ABSolar) president Rodrigo Sauaia. “According to some long-term projections the solar energy has the potential to respond to 32% of Brazil’s total capacity by 2040, which would make it the leading source of energy in Brazil, ahead of hydropower.”

And solar is attracting similar investments. Enel and Portuguese group EDP are both partnering Brazilian start-ups to accelerate the country’s solar potential. One such company is Minas Gerais state-based Sunew, which has developed an alternative to traditional silicon solar panels. Instead, the company produced a transparent, flexible photovoltaic film which is also lighter, making it easier to use for windows, tops of cars and trucks, and “even clothes”, according to the company’s general manager Filipe Ivo.

The video, made by Apex-Brasil in partnership with the BBC and the last in the current series of four, documents Brazil’s enthusiastic transition to sustainable energy sources. It shows not only how Brazil is making the switch, but also the country’s success levels with the change as it moves ever closer to its goal of leaving carbon-based energies altogether. You can watch the entire video here.