Will Brazil have a blackout in 2021?

The increase in electricity bills and the creation of programs to encourage the reduction of consumption in industry and in homes can minimize it, but they are not enough to completely avert the risk of energy shortages, experts say.

For them, the government has been denying the gravity of the crisis in the electricity sector, avoiding admitting that there is a need for rationing. In addition, the assessment is that the Executive took time to take measures such as the one that encourages consumers to save (announced only in August).

Without clear communication and with programs that invite, but do not force consumers to spend less, the diagnosis is that the risk of a power outage in the coming months cannot be ruled out.

If this happens, the country may face power cuts (when the energy supply is insufficient and distributors need to suspend supply in certain areas) or even blackouts (when there is an unexpected power outage, due to a problem in the system).

Reduced consumption is essential

Luiz Eduardo Barata, former director of the ONS (National Operator of the Electric System) and a consultant at the Instituto Clima e Sociedade, says that there are two ways out in a time of scarcity like today: a significant increase in energy supply or a reduction in energy consumption. consumption.

Every possible extra supply of energy has already been sought. I only see a solution to get around the problem if it is to reduce consumption.
Luiz Eduardo Barata

In addition to the activation of thermoelectric plants (which increased the electricity bill), the country is also importing energy from Argentina and Uruguay.

The federal government created an inter-ministerial group to monitor the crisis and, on the consumption side, launched a voluntary program for large users, such as industries, to reduce energy consumption.

For residential consumers, a similar initiative was implemented, which gives discounts on the bill if there is energy savings. The government also determined the reduction of consumption in public buildings.

There is also a price signal: as the system is activating thermoelectric plants, which produce more expensive energy, consumers are having to pay an additional fee on the electricity bill, the water scarcity flag (R$ 14.20 per 100 kWh). The fee is not charged to consumers who use the social tariff, aimed at low-income families.

Will government programs work?

In the case of brands, experts criticize that the main purpose is to remunerate distributors for the most expensive energy, and not necessarily to alert the consumer to save money. In theory, the more expensive bill signals that it is time to spend less, but a report by the TCU (Court of Accounts of the Union) published in 2018 pointed out that the mechanism has little effect on energy savings. In addition, the fee applies equally to everyone: whoever saves does not earn a extra discount, and those who spend too much do not have an additional punishment.

The flag is an instrument that signals the cost of energy supply, but it is not enough [para o momento atual]. They have this purpose of collection and also signaling [para o consumidor], but this signaling is partial and delayed. The increase in the banner alone will not reduce consumption. It is necessary to be very explicit with the consumer, saying that he needs to save.
Diogo Lisbon, researcher at the Center for Studies in Regulation and Infrastructure, Fundação Getúlio Vargas

Consumption reduction programs, which could signal more clearly to consumers that they need to spend less, are voluntary rather than mandatory.

In the case of industry, a survey by the CNI (National Confederation of Industry) points out that the government’s program should have little adhesion.

In 2001, when there was rationing, the government established a savings target for those who consumed more than 100 kWh per month. Those who did not reach the expected reduction had a surcharge on the electricity bill, which varied: for energy bills with more than 200 kWh, the surcharge was 50% on what exceeded this level; on accounts above 500 kWh, the surcharge was 200%.

According to Diogo Lisbona, charging more from those who do not reduce or even increase consumption could be more effective, in addition to helping to pay extra operating costs and the bonus for those who save.

The government transmitting that the reduction in consumption is unavoidable was important, but the measures may be insufficient. We are behind in communication. The campaign has to be very strong and emphasize the reduction in peak hours [à tarde e à noite].
Diogo Lisbon

For Luiz Eduardo Barata, a voluntary program would work if there was a broad campaign to raise awareness among the population.

But I don’t think we’re capable of realizing [essa campanha ampla]. In order for there to be any expressive result, the measure should be mandatory.
Luiz Eduardo Barata

lack of transparency

The government, however, has avoided using the word rationing. On Tuesday (31), for example, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque, asked people to save money, but stated at a press conference that he does not work “with the hypothesis of rationing”. On Thursday (2), in an interview, the minister stated that “it is difficult to predict the future”, but that the government works with a scenario in which rationing will not be necessary in October and November.

Vice President Hamilton Mourão said that there is a possibility of rationing and that the crisis could last for years, until the capacity of the reservoirs is recovered.

Communication is dubious, the government does not talk openly about risks. It even admits that there is a crisis, but then minimizes it. It is a negationist spirit, denying the crisis while giving. But there comes a time when the situation is in everyone’s eyes.
Luiz Eduardo Barata

The main point is that it is unpopular to talk about rationing, especially in an environment of pandemic, unemployment and inflation.

We have been discussing the water crisis for months, seeing the situation worsen. The point is that there are many crises involved: economic, political, and next year’s election. Talking about energy rationing is unpopular.
Bruno Imaizumi, economist at LCA Consultores

delay to act

Roberto Araújo, a retired engineer from Furnas and director of Instituto Ilumina, says that there is an “attempt to blame São Pedro”, but that there was a lack of planning.

Since 2014, we have been witnessing a constant emptying of reservoirs. We were already warned that we would have problems.
Roberto Araujo

The situation is getting worse. In August, the ONS released a technical note pointing to an even worse volume of rain than expected, especially in the southern region.

According to data from the agency, updated on September 1, the Southeast/Midwest subsystem has only 21.10% of useful volume in the reservoirs. In the South, storage is at 27.23% of capacity.

We are at the limit, and since 2014 there is a sign of the problem. In the short term, the room for maneuver is very small, so we are held hostage. But in the long run it is possible to solve the problem by installing new generation sources [como eólica e solar].
Paulo Henrique de Mello Santana, professor at the Federal University of ABC

What the ONS and the Ministry of Mines and Energy say

In a statement, the ONS stated that it is taking “all appropriate technical and operational measures” to maintain the continuity of energy supply. The agency did not comment on the possibility of a blackout.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy highlighted the diversification of the country’s energy matrix since 2001, with investment in other energy sources to minimize dependence on hydroelectric plants.

The note sent to the UOL He also claims that the country has a “robust transmission system”, which allows consumers to enjoy the energy generated in other regions of the country.

According to the agency, the federal government has acted quickly, “exploring all the measures within its reach, which will allow the 2021 dry period to pass without imposing a rationing program on Brazilians”.

“The Ministry reiterates, with transparency, that this is the moment when each one has to do their part, government and society, seeking the rational use of water resources and electricity, allowing all of us to go through this critical situation with serenity and without alarmism.”