Brazil limits hydro on Xingu River to 11,182-MW Belo Monte

Brazil’s national energy policy council has declared that hydropower development on the Xingu River will be limited to the proposed 11,182-MW Belo Monte hydroelectric project.

Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao signed the declaration of the Conselho Nacional de Politica Energetica (CNPE) for publication in Brazil’s national gazette July 17.

The government’s Agencia Brasil said the declaration emphasizes the importance of the Xingu River area for conservation of biological diversity and protection of native culture. It also calls for federal utility Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras S/A (Eletrobras) to conduct anthropological studies on the native communities affected by the project and to hear affected communities.

The declaration also notes the river reach where Belo Monte is proposed has a significant natural fall and flow that allows generation of energy by a single hydropower exploitation on the Xingu.

A 2007 inventory of the Xingu River Basin found that Belo Monte was the only feasible hydro project and dismissed the idea of developing other previously identified hydro sites. (HNN 12/5/07) Eletrobras submitted the inventory to electricity regulator Agencia Nacional de Energia Eletrica, updating basin studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s.

The earlier studies had also considered development of a separate 20,000-MW project on the Xingu that would have inundated 18,300 square kilometers. By contract, Belo Monte would inundate 440 square kilometers.

Eletrobras has been conducting preliminary studies on development of Belo Monte. A concession auction for development of the project is expected in October 2009.

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