Small hydro booming in Brazil as country nears energy surplus

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A report from Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy shows the South American country is tracking toward an energy surplus for the first time in nearly eight decades as the nation’s small hydro sector also continues to boom.

The current rise in Brazil’s small hydro market can be traced in large part to 2015 legislation that streamlined much of the authorization process.

Since then, the government has approved close to 7.7 GW-worth of small hydro proposals, according to data from Brazilian power regulator Agencia Nacional de Energia Eletrica (ANEEL), with investments totaling US$19 billion.

The Brazilian government said more than 200 MW of small hydro were added to the country’s grids in 2016 — adding to nearly 5 GW of cumulative small hydro capacity being generated by 440 plants.

Small hydro represents about 3% of Brazil’s total generation mix, which, for the first time since 1941, is projected to post an energy surplus.

Hydropower will make up 12.4% of this mix, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy, though the bulk of the country’s power still comes from renewables. Of the 82% of energy generated by renewable sources, nearly 70% is hydroelectric.

The government said the energy surplus is being created by an uptick in oil and gas production, coupled with a decrease in consumer demand for electricity.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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