Brazil official sees hydro development with Argentina, Bolivia

A Brazil energy official says he anticipates Brazil could be developing major hydroelectric projects jointly with Argentina and Bolivia.

Marcio Zimmermann, secretary of planning and energy development for Brazil’s Ministerio de Minas e Energia outlined several hydro development scenarios August 22 at the Seminario de Energia Eletrica e Crescimento, an electricity and growth seminar in Rio de Janeiro, sponsored by Fundacao Getulio Vargas.

The government’s Agencia Brasil said Zimmermann reported on an inventory by Brazil and Argentina of the Uruguai River where it forms the two countries’ border. He said experts of both countries expect within 30 months to have a feasibility study on the hydroelectric potential of the region.

Zimmermann said Brazilian utility Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras S/A (Eletrobras) and Ibiza of Argentina are re-inventorying the Uruguai’s hydro potential in view of increased environmental requirements of the last 20 years.

In June, the Inter-American Development Bank recruited consultants to help develop a master plan for sustainable development of the Uruguai River watershed in Brazil. (HNN 5/29/07) In 2006, Brazil and Argentina made construction of the 2,700-MW Garabi hydro project on their joint border a priority. (HNN 8/30/06)

Potential for joint development with Bolivia

Zimmermann also speculated that Brazil might cooperate with Bolivia to develop joint hydroelectric projects along the border with that country. He said there are 100 kilometers of joint border where bi-national projects could be discussed.

The government of Bolivia recently sent a letter to Brazil objecting to Brazil’s plans to proceed with two hydroelectric projects totaling 6,450 MW on the Madeira River near the Bolivian border. (HNN 7/13/07) However, Zimmermann said that criticism was answered by Brazil’s state department, which pointed out the project lands and waters in question are all within Brazil and not an instance of development on the border.

As recently as 2003, Brazilian utilities had studied the possibility of also building a 3,000-MW Cachoeira Esperanza hydro project, farther upstream on the Madeira, within Bolivia, which would have required Bolivian approval.

Concession auction confirmed for 3,300-MW Jirau

The ministry secretary also confirmed that a concession auction is to be held in March 2008 for the 3,300-MW Jirau project, 84 kilometers from the Bolivian border on the Madeira, an Amazon River tributary.

The Ministerio de Minas e Energia previously set an October 30 concession auction for the first big Madeira river project, 3,150-MW Santo Antonio, 119 kilometers from the Bolivian border. (HNN 8/14/07)

Zimmermann said the ministry hopes to stimulate greater participation by hydroelectric projects in Brazil’s national power auctions. He said it expected 30,000 MW of hydro could be inventoried by 2010, with another 27,000 MW in feasibility studies.

Tendering seen in 2009 for 11,182-MW Belo Monte

The official said the government hopes to seek tenders in 2009 for development of the first stage of the 11,182-MW Belo Monte hydroelectric project on the Xingu River in Para State. A judge in April dismissed an environmental lawsuit against the project. (HNN 4/10/07)

Zimmermann said the 7 billion reais (US$3.5 billion) Belo Monte is expected to be built in two stages, with the first stage totaling 5,500 MW.

He said another big plant, the estimated 9,000-MW Sao Luis do Tapajos, is expected to be auctioned in 2010. Sao Luis, on the Itaituba River, is still in feasibility studies, he said. Utility Centrais Eletricas do Norte do Brasil (Eletronorte) and Camargo Correa agreed in 2006 to carry out an inventory of the Tapajos River Basin, including Sao Luis do Tapajos.

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