The perspective of the National Congress voting on a bill that deregulates the electric sector and the charging of the "wire tax" on solar photovoltaic generation starting next year are promoting a rush of companies to expand capacity or enter solar energy generation. In the race for the sun are large energy distributors, trading companies in the free market and large consumers, as well as new businesses, seeking to ensure their presence in the market for distributed solar photovoltaic generation (plants of up to 5 MW), whose installed capacity grew 70% in 12 months and reached the historic mark of 11.31 gigawatts (GW). In homes and small businesses, the prospect of more expensive electricity rates and inflation is motivating the expansion of rooftop panels.
The legal changes that are moving the sector began earlier this year with the sanction of Law 13,400, the legal framework for distributed solar generation, which establishes the collection of the distribution system use tariff (Tusd) for projects installed as of 2023, guaranteeing exemption until 2045 for systems installed until the end of this year. Bill 414/2021, approved in the Senate, should be voted in the House of Representatives by the end of this year. The proposal foresees portability in the electricity bill, expanding the free market for residential consumers, and the modernization of the regulatory framework of the electricity sector.
In the first half of this year alone, the generation capacity of the distributed systems was increased by 2.7 GW, from 8.3 GW to the power registered now (11.31 GW). With the race for investments, another 6.2 GW will be installed by the end of the year, with total investments of R$ 40.6 billion, raising the generation capacity to 17.2 GW, which will represent a growth of 105% in relation to the level in December 2021, according to figures from the Brazilian Photovoltaic Solar Energy Association (Absolar).
And the race for the sun is most accelerated in Minas Gerais, which leads distributed solar generation in the country with 1.84 GW of installed capacity and a 16.2% market share. And this power should continue to grow, with the number of consumers increasing, attracted by discounts that vary from 15% to 20% on the electricity bill. The two largest energy distributors in the state, Companhia Energética de Minas Gerais (Cemig) and Energisa, are investing heavily in diversifying the source of energy for customers. Energisa created (re)energiza to operate in the deregulated market, including distributed generation.
With 26 solar farms in Minas and one in Rio, (re)energiza is investing R$1.1 billion this year in the installation of 50 plants and increasing the installed capacity to 230 megawatts (MW), more than doubling the number of plants (21) by the end of 2021. Today, the company operates in distributed generation with an installed capacity of 85 megawatts and a portfolio of 2,000 customers, including small and medium-sized businesses attracted by a discount of up to 20% on their electricity bill.
In 2020, the non-regulated energy business contributed 8% of the Energisa Group's revenue, and the perspective, according to Roberta Godoi, vice president of energy solutions and leader of (re)energiza, is that in the near future the business in the non-regulated market will surpass the regulated one in the group. She evaluates that there is a change going on in the electric sector, where "the vision of the asset is being replaced by the vision of the client, and whoever serves the client with diverse products will be more successful, and in distributed generation there is a market for added services.
This perspective of advancement of non-regulated business over services provided by concession led Cemig to partner at the end of 2019 with the Mori Energia group and create Cemig SIM, a subsidiary for the distributed generation area. With 18 solar plants installed in Minas with a capacity to generate 72 MW and a portfolio of 6,000 clients, Cemig is investing R$300 million this year to expand its generation capacity and late last month announced the purchase of three photovoltaic plants connected to FortlevSolar in Prudente de Morais, Jequitibá and in Montes Claros with a total potential of 16.21 MW. With this investment, which is part of an investment program of around R$ 1 billion by 2025, Cemig Sim can serve an additional 2,500 consumers in the low-voltage residential, commercial and industrial markets.
From free market to 'distributed'The
race to guarantee distributed generation plants without additional charges as from 2023 has also attracted energy traders in the free market, which already accounts for a 30% share of all energy sold to large consumers. Esfera Energia and Trinity Energias Renováveis are two of the companies operating in the free market that are now entering the photovoltaic distributed generation market. With the purchase of Norten Energia, from Minas Gerais, in August 2021, Esfera took the first step to enter the solar energy market by providing services. With investments of R$ 25 million encouraged by Esfera solar farms are added to the portfolio of the company that launched this year a solar energy subscription plan with a 16% discount in relation to the electricity bill.
Esfera Energia's vice president of Customer Acquisitions and Business Transformation, Guilherme Esperidão says the company's goal is to have 200,000 customers connected to distributed generation solar plants by 2025, with 8,000 customers joining the company's plan in Minas Gerais this year. "Esfera does not build plants, but subcontracts from a selection of projects that are part of our portfolio and from this source the apportionment is made with the clients. The consumer is our customer as well as the generators," explains Esperidião, remembering that the surplus energy generated on rooftops is also captured.
For Esperidião, the fact that as of 2023 the new solar systems will have to pay a fee for the use of the distributor network will not discourage investments in distributed generation. "They are projects for 10 or 15 years, and during this time there will be an evolution in terms of efficiency and the cost of generation tends to fall, and with this the scenario is well balanced, offering an opportunity for further development," affirms the Esfera Energia executive. To stimulate consumer adhesion, the company offers a 20% discount in June, the first month of operation of the subscription plan that can be contracted at Esfera's website.
With the proposal to invest in its own distributed photovoltaic energy generation, Trinity Energias Renováveis has invested R$28 million in the installation of two solar farms in Minas Gerais, with a capacity of 3.2 MW each, totaling 6.4 MW of installed power. The plants, installed in Bom Sucesso, in the south of the state, are in the final stages of construction and will have the capacity to supply energy to 3 thousand homes by the end of this year. With an adhesion contract, Trinity grants a 15% discount on its customers' electricity bills.
The company, which started its operations in 2012 in the free energy market with consulting for consumers, generators for energy trading, is now investing in distributed generation. "The company's strategic plan, still in the feasibility analysis phase, is to reach 100 MW generation by 2025, with solar farms in Minas, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro," informs Trinity's CEO, João Cox. The company's goal is to have a thousand clients (consumers/generators) in its portfolio within three years.
Clean energy is attractiveAlong
with the possibility of reducing costs with the electric energy bill, the dissemination and adoption of ESG concepts by Brazilian companies is increasing investments in distributed generation. In this race, Arcos Dourados, responsible for McDonald's operation, inaugurated, in partnership with EDP, three solar plants with capacity to generate 11,720 Mwh/year and that will meet the demand of 28 restaurants and seven dessert kiosks of the chain.
The plants, which required investments of R$ 28.3 million, are located in Cotia (SP) and two in Rio Paranaíba (MG) and will supply energy to McDonald's for 12 years. The plants will avoid the emission of 725 tons of CO2 annually. The startup Finehra Energia, from Minas Gerais, decided to unite the race for investments in generation with the demand of companies to reduce CO2 emissions. The company captures small generators that before compensated the leftovers with credit with the concessionaires and now sell this energy and created the green ticket, offered to large companies that advertise Finehra's subscription plan for employees, who have the option to reduce the cost of the energy bill.
"It has no cost for the company that has a green label and accounts for the reduction of CO2 emissions," explains Érika Garcia, CEO of the estartup created in 2020. Today, Finehra has 100 solar systems on its platform, with a capacity to generate 15 MW, and the goal is to reach the end of the year with a power of 25 MW and a universe of 12,000 company employees benefited by the green ticket.