Federal legislation could bolster Brazil’s offshore energy sector, including tidal

Ocean
Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

Brazil could see “hundreds of billions of reais” invested in offshore renewable energy generation projects, including tidal power generation, senator Jean Paul Prattes of the Workers Party (PT) said during a webinar last week organized by Banco Safra.

“This is the size of the demand growth, combined with the replacement of other sources. Burning oil is a crime against humanity and freshwater can no longer be considered an infinite, renewable source, even when it comes to run-of-river hydroelectric plants,” he said.

According to BNamericas, the legislator is the author of a federal bill that creates a regulatory framework for solar, wind and tidal power generation along Brazil’s coastline. Submitted for debate in the national congress at the end of February, the bill proposes rules similar to those regulating oil and gas concession bidding rounds, including a signature bonus to be paid to the federal government and a fee for occupying the areas provided, in addition to a royalty corresponding to 5% of the energy generated and sold.

Another possibility outlined is offering appropriate areas through a planned authorization system organized by the government and a separate independent one, where operators would suggest the location of the blocks. In the case of the government system, the areas would have prior environmental evaluation studies, while operators would be responsible for conducting these in the areas the private sector proposes.

Prattes highlighted that the bill includes rules for other bodies of water, like hydro dam reservoirs, where floating PV solar power generation plants can be installed. “We refer to the areas granted in water bodies as ‘energy prisms’, since they comprise air and underwater spaces,” the senator said.

Brazil has floating PV solar plants operating at some of its water reservoirs, such as the Chesf plant in Sobradinho, Bahia state, as well as at rural properties around the country. Last year São Paulo’s Emae opened a public call to select potential public or private partners to develop solar projects to be installed on the Billings reservoir.

The country has no offshore wind plants in operation, but Norway’s Equinor is licensing 4-GW parks to be installed off the coast of Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro states.

In a recent interview with BNamericas, Casa dos Ventos’ director for new business, Lucas Araripe, said offshore wind does not make much sense in Brazil yet, given the low population density in the northeast region, where it is still is possible to deploy big projects with a high capacity factor and cheap installation costs.

In November 2020, environmental regulator Ibama launched the guidelines for offshore wind undertakings.

In its offshore wind roadmap, published in April 2020, Brazilian energy research company EPE underlined that the sector could attract international oil companies with offshore expertise, such as Equinor and Shell. “The studies carried out by EPE point to the existence of a technical potential of around 700GW in areas in water depths up to 50m,” the report read.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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