Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brazil's hydroelectric power plants hit by extended drought

Hydroelectric power plants are by far the most important source of electricity generation in Brazil, by satisfying approximately 90% of country's demand for electricity. What this means is that Brazil is heavily dependent upon adequate rainfall, and that droughts might even lead to possible energy shortages in the country.

A couple of days ago Brazil's operator Itaipu Binacional announced 4,000-MW Itaipu hydroelectric project established a new record for generation in 2012, and just few days after this announcement, there have been various reports about Brazilian government being worried about the droughts that are causing shortage of hydropower resources.

Some even believe that Brazil looks likely to face its first widespread energy rationing since 2001 though Energy Minister Edison Lobao calmed the public by saying "there is no chance of rationing, no chance of shortages."

However, the Brazil's backup thermoelectric generators are already operating as the country is already preparing itself for the expected shortfall.

The Brazilian Association of Independent Power Producers, Alpine, reports that reservoirs for hydroelectric plants in the southeast and midwest are at only 28.9%, which is just 0.8% above the minimum levels set to meet demand at full load. The situation isn't much better with the reservoirs in the northeast that are at 31.61% capacity, with the only exception being those in the north region that are still at a respectable 41.24%.

The extended drought period is always the concern when hydropower power plants are involved. It is still too early to tell whether the country will be forced energy rationing or not, and more information will be available after the meeting of Brazil's power sector monitoring committee.