A sustainable electricity blueprint for Brazil

3 de dezembro de 2006

With more aggressive policies for reducing power waste at both the production and the consumption level and promoting new renewable energy sources, Brazil could cut by 38% the projected power generation growth by 2020 – equal to a saving of 293 TWh, avoidance of 74.6 GW of installed capacity and a saving of US$ 15 billion. In turn, this would create up to 8 million new jobs and stabilise Brazil’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that contribute to global warming to 2004 levels by 2020.

These are the main conclusions of the report "A sustainable electricity blueprint for Brazil", whose main objective is to provoke discussions among policymakers and society on alternative, cost-effective scenarios for wider introduction of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy sources in the Brazilian power sector.

The report was commissioned to the Latin American regional office of the International Energy Initiative (REI-LA) by the WWF-Brazil within the global campaign of WWF-International called PowerSwitch!. The PowerSwitch Campaign's goal is to get governments to cut CO2 pollution from the power sector and force a switch to cleaner, more efficient power. The PowerSwitch! Campaign is part of the WWF Climate Change Program.

The full report in Portuguese can be downloaded from the WWF-Brazil's website.

A paper in English was written for the journal of the International Energy Initiative, Energy for Sustainable Development (ESD), that will be issued in December 2006.

BOX – Key clean energy options analyzed

Supply-side reductions

Demand-side options

(both hydropower and thermal)




  • Efficiency increases of existing power plants

  • Increase in the amount of distributed generation, particularly sugar-bagasse combined heat and electricity production

  • Reduction of losses in the electricity transmission and distribution system


  • Increased use of wind, small hydropower and biomass for electricity production


  • Introduction of energy-efficient motors in industry

  • Best practice appliances and cooling equipment in the household sector

  • Replacement of electric water heaters with solar water heaters

  • Energy-efficient office equipment, lighting and cooling

  • Appliances with low stand-by losses (<1 W) in the household sector.


The study’s research findings

The methodology used for this study is based on the principles of the integrated resource planning (IRP), and adopts a “bottom-up” approach which essentially looks at the opportunities to reduce power demand by improving energy efficiency on both the supply and demand sides.

1. Business-as-usual scenario (BAU)


  • The estimates are based on a continuation of the current patterns of energy use in Brazil, where energy-intensive industries still consume about half of the total electricity production in 2020. This scenario utilized several inputs from official estimates. Highlights include the following.

  • Under the BAU scenario, power consumption is projected to increase by 4.8% annually, from 330.8 TWh in 2004 up to 702.7 TWh in 2020, requiring a total installed generating capacity of 193.0 GW, up from the current 92.1 GW.

  • Generating capacity and output remains dominated by large-scale hydropower, though relatively decreasing, with an increasing share of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas. Also, 63% of the generating capacity will be based on hydropower in 2020, while fossil fuels and nuclear power will cover 27%, followed by new renewables with 10%.

  • Natural gas-based electricity will grow from roughly 19.0 TWh in 2004 to just below 80.0 TWh by 2020, equal to a 321% increase, which will make the country more dependent on unstable foreign supplies.

2. The “Power Switch” scenario (PSW)


  • Energy savings are the key difference with the BAU scenario. The PSW scenario projects total electricity demand at roughly 500 TWh by 2020, with savings totaling 290 TWh – equivalent to 75% of the electricity consumption in 2004, bringing demand down by 38% by 2020.

  • The need for expensive investments in new power infrastructure could be avoided, providing a net economic and social benefit to the Brazilian people. Specifically, the need to construct 74.6 GW of new electricity generation plant by 2020 could be avoided – equivalent to the capacity of 6 large hydropower plants of the ITAPU-type or 57 nuclear power facilities of the Angra III type.

  • On the supply side, the share of renewable energy, including large hydropower, in the fuel mix increases up to 85% of the installed capacity by 2020. New renewable energy options such as biomass (particularly sugar bagasse-fired cogeneration), wind power, and small hydropower deliver the major supply increase, totaling about 26.0 GW of installed capacity.

  • Under the PSW, there will be no need to build new fossil fuel power plants. Natural gas consumption will stabilize at 2004 levels, reducing the country’s dependency on unstable foreign energy resources.

  • Under the high levels of energy efficiency and main renewable energy measures assumed, CO2 emissions are stabilized at about 2004 levels. This is a 200% fall by 2020 compared to the BAU scenario. This will keep Brazil’s leadership on low-carbon electric energy.

  • Under the PSW scenario, inundated land will be reduced by a factor of seven compared to the BAU case, that is, 142 km2, down from 955 km2, leading to much lower socio-environmental impacts. Indeed, almost two-thirds of the country’s hydro potential is in the rivers of the Amazon, meaning that under a BAU scenario the number of rain-forest, indigenous and riverbank communities affected by new dam infrastructure could rise significantly.

  • The PSW scenario will create 10 million new and better jobs in the renewable energy sector – that is, 3.5 million more than the BAU scenario. In reality, employment creation is likely to be higher because the study does not account for the jobs created within the energy efficiency sector, for which there is a lack of data.


The study shows that with an effective electricity demand reduction program and the aggressive adoption of policies stimulating renewable energy investment and efficient and retrofitted power facilities, Brazil will meet its 2020 electricity needs at low cost and in a low-impact way.