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    Brazil mulls resuming power purchases from Venezuela


    May 23, 2023 - Robson Rodrigues

     

      The Brazilian government mulls resuming power purchases from Venezuela to supply Roraima to solve the state's deficit. According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), it is a priority of the Lula administration to strengthen partnerships with neighbors, especially with the bloc of countries that can export or import electricity.

      Brazil intends to conduct studies to determine the relevance and possibility of resuming the exchange of electricity between Venezuela and Roraima, "as a potential measure to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions, evaluating the availability of international connection infrastructures and ensuring energy security."

      Beyond the ideological questions, experts estimate that the interconnection with Venezuela would bring reasonable tariffs, strengthen the energy exchange in the Southern Cone, resume bilateral relations, and contribute to the fight against global warming.

      On the other hand, in addition to the political instability of Nicolás Maduro's regime, Venezuela's electricity infrastructure has not received investment for years and is outdated. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2019, Venezuela generated 85 million MWh of electricity, down 19% from the previous year.

      According to the agency, the recent drop in generation is the result of technical failures affecting both hydroelectric and thermal power plants. These problems include the government's inability to repair or maintain critical equipment.

      Until early 2019, most of the service to local consumers was provided by the transfer of power from the Guri Linhão (the world's fifth-largest hydropower mill), which is the interconnection of the Guri-Macágua hydroelectric complex with the city of Boa Vista. This was the solution agreed upon in 2001 by then-presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Hugo Chávez since Roraima is still the only Brazilian state that is not part of the National Interconnected System (SIN).

      However, in the first months of the Bolsonaro administration (2018-2022), the supply was interrupted by several power outages due to the lack of maintenance of the machines and the interruption of payments by Brazil due to the U.S. embargo against Venezuela.

      With the interruption, Roraima is now supplied by five diesel and natural gas thermoelectric plants, which are more expensive and more polluting.

      Roberto Brandão, a senior researcher of the power sector study group of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ-Gesel), recalls that the interruption of power supply from Venezuela was a great loss for consumers since the Roraima electrical system was not prepared for the cut.

      "The resumption of imports from Venezuela is of interest to Brazil to reduce power costs in Roraima. For this to happen, it is necessary to normalize both the payment routine and the maintenance of the transmission equipment," he said.

      If it works out, power from Venezuela could reduce the electricity bill of Brazilians, since the diesel used in the plants is subsidized by the Fuel Consumption Account (CCC), a fund financed by a tariff on all consumers that cost nearly R$1.7 billion in 2022.

      The Tucuruí Linhão, which connects Manaus to Boa Vista, would be the solution for the inclusion of Roraima in the SIN and has been promised by several administrations, but the magnitude and challenge of this route can be measured by the almost 720 kilometers between the two cities. The project also raises the issue of Indigenous people since part of the route crosses the Waimiri Atroari reserve.

      The vice-president of the Regional Energy Integration Commission (CIER), Celso Torino, believes that the power interconnection between Brazil and Venezuela should be seen with a long-term perspective, considering the economic optimization, the interests of bilateral relations, and the fight against global warming with clean electricity.

      "The interconnection with Venezuela and the national 500KV line that will connect Boa Vista to Manaus are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, the creation of 'electrical bridges' between countries with Brazil, all interconnected internally, will allow the regional economic and energy optimization. In this specific case, the search for the elimination of the daily burning of diesel oil to supply the energy of the state of Roraima will benefit the environment and consumers throughout the country who today have to subsidize this expensive energy from the diesel thermoelectric plants," Mr. Torino said.

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