2016 drought eases and continues in Brazil, affecting hydroelectric power generation

The long-term drought that has plagued Brazil and resulted in a negative affect on hydroelectric power generation is expected to ease in some parts of the country this autumn, while it will continue in other areas, according to published meteorological forecasts.

The rain will help fill water reservoirs — including facilities near Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and Porto Alegre — that have undergone a dramatic decrease in water levels since 2013. However, it will take more than one wet season to put an end to the historic drought.

“The rain around Rio will not be enough to overcome the drought,” said U.S. Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

For areas across the northern part of Brazil, as well as in French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana, drought conditions will worsen heading into the season as the much-needed rain stays to the south.

According to published forecasts for South America, wet weather will frequent large portions of the continent throughout autumn, but dry spells will dominate the weather pattern in southern and northern parts of the continent.

Itaipu hydroelectric facility
Operators of the 14-GW Itaipu hydroelectric project on the Parana River located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay think 2016 will afford the facility better hydrological conditions compared to 2014 and 2015.

In 2016, according to a press release from facility owner Itaipu Binacional, the expectation is that Itaipu will again produce more than 90 million MWh, which did not happen in the last two years.

In 2014 and 2015, the annual volume produced by Itaipu was around 87 million and 89.5 million MWh. The company said even producing below 90 million during this period, the average over the past five years was approximately 93 million MWh.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest information on Brazilian power generation, in 2014, hydroelectricity accounted for 89.2 GW of generating capacity, or 65.2% of total generated electricity. The final end-use consumption of electricity was 531 billion kWh, an increase of almost 3% from the previous year.

Additional resources:
Brazil rebounding from drought
El Nino causes drought “here” and heavy rain “there”
Sao Paulo water access  

Brazil’s Energy Minister, Eduardo Braga, on Feb. 27 said, “An additional 3,000 MW of gas-fired power is set to be deactivated on March 1, as rains improve Brazil’s hydropower system.”

Brazil has had its more expensive natural gas-powered thermal plants running at high-capacity since the drought hit the southeast region.

Braga also said deactivating the plants will reduce electricity tariffs across the country just and forecasters say the heaviest and most beneficial rain will be mainly confined to southern portions of the country.

The 2016 expectations for Itaipu are based on weather forecasts, the good performance of the plant and also the behavior of the transmission and consumption systems, both in Brazil and in Paraguay, according to the company. Additionally, the prolonged effect of one of the most intense El Nino events of all time is expected to continue until autumn, and rainfall in the incremental basin where the dam is located, should be above average.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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