Brazil gives environmental approval to 1,087-MW Estreito

Brazil’s environmental regulator granted a long-awaited license December 14 for the 1,087-MW Estreito hydroelectric project, to be built on the Tocantins River.

Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente (Ibama) said Estreito will affect 10 cities in Tocantins State and one in Maranhao State, causing the displacement of about 5,000 people. It said the environmental license requires conditions to deal with social and environmental issues prior to filling of the 555-square-kilometer reservoir.

Brazil’s Agencia Nacional de Energia Eletrica (ANEEL) awarded a concession in 2002 to Consorcio Estreito Energia, made up of Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), Tractebel Egi South America Ltda., Alcoa Aluminio S.A., BHP Billiton Metais S.A., and Camargo Correa Energia Ltda.

However, the project was prevented from proceeding until the developer addressed several issues that were not included in its original environmental impact statement. In November, Estreito was among 120 stalled infrastructure projects that newly re-elected President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he planned to push through in his second term. (HNN 11/22/06)

Ibama said the development consortium would try to begin work soon to beat Brazil’s rainy season. Under its license, the project must be completed by 2010, Ibama said.

The environmental agency said Estreito marks a divider among hydro project concession auctions because Estreito was the last hydro project to be auctioned without the certainty that it was environmentally viable. Today, Ibama said, projects only are auctioned if they have received prior environmental approvals.

�This was the most complex electric sector enterprise to be permitted by our administration,� Ibama President Marcus Barros said. �It only will be surpassed in terms of energy generation by the Jirau and Santo Antonio hydroelectrics on the Madeira River — together they will produce 6,500 MW — and by Belo Monte on the Xingu River with 5,500 MW, which we are in process of evaluating.�

License renewed for 855-MW Foz do Chapeco

Ibama renewed the license of the 855-MW Foz do Chapeco project on Dec. 5, clearing a schedule that anticipates the 2.1 billion real (US$970 million) project will go on line in 2011.

President Jose Pedro Rodrigues, of federal utility Furnas Centrais Eletricas, estimated work would begin in December on Foz do Chapeco on the Uruguai River at the border between Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina states. Furnas bought the 40 percent stake that CVRD held in the project earlier this year. (HNN 2/22/06)

The project owners, which also include CPFL Energia and Rio Grande do Sul State utility Companhia Estadual de Energia Eletrica, lost the original environmental license due to delays in beginning construction.

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