How Brazil can circumvent the risk of rationing, according to experts

In the race against time to avoid rationing along the lines of 2001, with compulsory power cuts, specialists and executives from the sector consulted by the ‘Estadão’ point out some measures to try to ease the deepening of the crisis. The solutions include measures such as emergency contracting (through cogeneration or thermal), returning to daylight saving time, accelerating the installation of solar panels in homes and even selective power cuts at certain times of the day.

This does not mean that, at this point, the country could escape rationing. But at least it could reduce the size of any power cuts. One of the first initiatives that the government needs to adopt, experts say, is the creation of a broad publicity campaign to explain the situation in the sector.

For the president of the Brazilian Association of Wind Energy (Abeeólica), Elbia Gannoum, the measure tends to create greater engagement by society in reducing consumption. Many people still do not understand – or do not know – the real dimension of the crisis, a reflection of the government’s stance in denying the seriousness of the scenario.

Today, according to data from the PSR consultancy, the chance of the country having problems during peak hours is 30%, and of being forced to enact a traditional rationing of 15%. “Our simulations and those of the ONS (National Electric System Operator) converge in the sense that the size of the rationing would not exceed 5% of the load and for a short time”, says the president of PSR, Luiz Barroso.

In the assessment of specialists, the measures announced by the government, of voluntary energy reduction, are correct, but they came at the wrong time. “We have been in the crisis since May, and measures to encourage the reduction of consumption will only start in September”, says UFRJ professor Nivalde Castro. For him, a measure that would help to increase the offer would be a negotiation with Bolivia to increase the share of the Madeira River and, thus, increase the production of the Jirau hydroelectric plant, by about 700 average MW.

Experts say that, in addition to praying for rain, it is necessary to hope that the reduction measures take effect. But Coppe/UFRJ Energy Planning professor Marcos Freitas points out that the population is already trying to save because of high energy prices, with the adoption of tariff flags. Even so, he claims that the government has to use any and all measures that reduce demand, even if the gain is small. His suggestion is to resume daylight saving time to try to shift consumption during peak hours.

For David Zylbersztajn, former general director of the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) and former member of the Energy Crisis Management Chamber in 2001, it is not enough just to give people bonuses to reduce consumption. It is necessary to punish those who cannot save. “It is important to give an economic signal of the crisis to have society’s adhesion.”

Despite the palliative measures, experts warn that the situation is complicated and that the risk of rationing is increasing. Information is from the newspaper The State of São Paulo.