One of the solutions for the country’s energy crisis, with national impacts, is located about 54 kilometers from Fortaleza, in Porto do Pecém. According to a technical note released by the National Electric System Operator (ONS), the improvement of national conditions for energy generation can benefit from the feasibility of another regasifier ship — which transforms liquid fuel into gaseous fuel — at the port, located between the municipalities of Caucaia and São Gonçalo do Amarante, in the Metropolitan Region of Fortaleza.
Through the measure, it would be possible to have a more continuous flow of fuels to be burned in thermoelectric plants and, thus, produce more energy. This is because, with the low level of water reservoirs, the country needs to activate thermal plants to maintain large-scale production, even though this makes the value of the input more expensive and makes the activity more harmful to the environment.
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Tomaz Nunes Cavalcante Neto, professor at the Department of Electric Energy at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC) and specialist in energy efficiency, explains that the ONS recommendation for Pecém is for thermoelectric plants to operate with greater safety, with no impediments to the moment when they need to function more intensely and continuously.
The expert believes that this is an effective measure to control the crisis and it is plausible to be put into practice, especially because the Port of Pecém was planned to receive this type of operation, according to him. “This is a technical recommendation for this to happen. Several federal government agencies will have this in hand and put it into practice”, details Cavalcante Neto.
In a statement on radio and television this Tuesday, 31, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque, explained that the country is currently having to bear costs both for the operation of thermoelectric plants and for the import of energy from countries neighbors. He asked for the involvement of the entire society so that blackouts and a possible power rationing be avoided in the coming months.
“That’s why, in this moment of scarcity, we need, more than ever, to use our water and our energy in a conscious and responsible way. With this effort, together with the set of measures that the federal government has been adopting, we will be able to face this challenging situation. A situation that will be all the more favorable the faster, more intense and comprehensive the mobilization of society to face it”, argued Albuquerque in the speech.
The possibility of energy rationing also worries Gilmar Lopes Ribeiro, electrical engineer and professor of electrical engineering at the Fortaleza campus of the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Ceará (IFCE). The professor considers that the measures taken by the government are delayed, and could have been implemented earlier. Carrying out campaigns for the population to save energy, for example, takes time so that it can have practical effects, according to the researcher.
“It is very possible that we have energy rationing, which is compulsory and mandatory. The government needs to act quickly, because the crisis is very serious”, emphasizes Ribeiro. He also considers that previous measures, such as the extinction of daylight saving time, are factors that intensified the scenario that the country is currently facing. “It is necessary that it rains a lot until the end of the year so that we can replenish the reservoirs. If that doesn’t happen, we may have an accumulation of problems”, he warns.
Low water levels in reservoirs hinder energy generation in the country
The water levels in the reservoirs are considerably lower in July this year, when compared to the same month in 2020. In the case of the Northeast, for example, the percentage dropped from 82% to 54%. Still, volumes can be considered high compared to other regions, such as the Southeast and Midwest, which together had a reduction from 48% to 26%, in addition to the South, with a drop from 58% to 47%. Both cases represent the worst moment in the historical series, according to ONS data.
Cavalcante Neto explains that a rainy season within the average is essential for restoring water levels and greater efficiency of hydroelectric plants. “If you don’t have it, it’s very difficult. We have to hope that São Pedro will help us”, ponders the expert, noting that the hydroelectric matrix is the main source for energy generation in the country. “The big challenge is to arrive in November with water first. A hydroelectric plant with less than 12% has difficulty or does not have the capacity to generate energy”, he details.
In Ceará, 100% of the territory continues with drought, although the affected area has not grown between the months of June and July this year. In the other federations in the Northeast, it was registered severe drought expansion in Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba, as well as the advance of moderate drought in Piauí. In Bahia, the phenomenon intensified in the center and south of the state, changing from moderate to severe drought.
In the rest of the country, the drought continues to expand in all the Southeastern states, due to the continuation of below-average rainfall. South and Midwest also face the phenomena, with an increase in the advance of severe drought in Paraná, Goiás and Mato Grosso do Sul. The North region, in turn, has only one monitored state, Tocantins, where moderate droughts and grave continue advancing in the center and south of the state.
The information is from data compiled for July from the Drought Monitor. The initiative, coordinated by the National Water and Basic Sanitation Agency (ANA), with the support of the Cearense Meteorology and Water Resources Foundation (Funceme), aims to continuously monitor the severity of droughts in Brazil based on indicators of the phenomenon and impacts caused in the short and/or long term.
The greatest expectation of rain in the Southeast and Midwest — where 70% of the country’s water reserves for energy generation is concentrated — is expected for the coming months. However, the projection of experts from the National Institute of Meteorology (Inmet) heard by CNN Brazil is that the precipitations will not be enough to improve the water level in the reservoirs. “The entrances of the cold fronts will not be very frequent and therefore there will not be a very regular pattern”, points out meteorologist Morgana Almeida in an interview with the station.
In a technical note released last week, the ONS also reported its concern about the lack of rain. “Over the last few years, the precipitation observed in some of the main hydrographic basins that are part of the SIN (National Interconnected System) has been shown to be significantly below the historical average. The deficit of precipitation accumulated in the last 10 years in some basins reaches a value greater than the total amount of rain that occurs on average in one year”, emphasizes the agency.
Diversification of energy matrices and investment in infrastructure should avoid new crises, says researcher
It is possible to think of the electricity sector in a similar way to a portfolio of financial investments: the more diversified, the greater the security if one of the components is not at its best moment. Currently, as we have a significant dependence on hydroelectric power plants — a form of renewable energy generation at a low cost — we end up being harmed when reservoir levels are low and are not capable of generating enough energy. From there, the current solution is to activate thermoelectric plants, with high cost and environmental damage more impactful.
Professor Francisco Kleber de Araújo Lima, from the UFC’s Electrical Engineering Department, argues that greater investment in wind and solar energy, for example, could help in periods when there is little rain. “When there is greater production of these complementary energies, it is precisely when the hydroelectric plant is at a low point and vice versa. We managed to gain a lot from this seasonality”, points out the specialist.
According to ONS data, the share of energy produced with wind energy this Tuesday, 31, corresponds to 21% of the total produced throughout the country. The number is almost half of that produced by hydroelectric plants (46%) and more than two-thirds of the energy generated by thermoelectric plants (29%). Considering only the Northeast, wind energy represents today around 60% more than the sum of hydraulic and thermal generation.
For Professor Gilmar Lopes Ribeiro, the planning of the Brazilian electricity sector must be very well studied and take into account all the aspects we are going through. “The crisis can teach us, open our eyes to future moments. The country cannot fail to consider energy in order to achieve economic development”, argues the specialist. “The construction of a hydroelectric plant, for example, takes more than 10 years to be ready and the environmental impacts need to be very well analyzed”, he emphasizes.
Investments in the system also need to reach infrastructure, such as power transmission lines, as Professor Araújo Lima explains. The expert details that in some cases the energy generating sources need to reduce their production capacity because they have already met their local demand and they cannot export the input to other places due to lack of equipment.
“This is now our Achilles’ heel, our sources are not bad, we have evolved a lot in recent years. But there is no point in having a reinforced matrix, if there is no way to drain this energy”, he analyzes. “With this improvement, we can have large producers helping small energy centers that are in need of reinforcement at certain times”, he concludes.
THE PEOPLE it sought out the ONS last Thursday, 26th, to answer questions about the proposed measures, but it did not receive a reply until the publication of this article.
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