Workshop Innovation for the Establishment of Photovoltaic Solar Energy Sector in Brazil

31 de março de 2011

The first edition of the Workshop Innovation for the Establishment of Photovoltaic Solar Energy Sector in Brazil – INOVA FV – brought together experts and business professionals, representatives of Brazilian federal government and research institutions to build a coordinated action for the PV sector in the following areas: technological, regulatory, physical infrastructure, human resources, market and investment. The workshop was held on March 15th and 16th at University of Campinas (Unicamp), in Brazil and it was attended by 282 participants while the organization was optimistically expecting 150 attendees.

The event aimed to encourage both the discussion and the validation of an action agenda for the establishment of industrial, scientific and technological policies for the development and competitiveness of photovoltaic equipment and services in the country. Allied to this, the event also envisaged the approximation of their R&D and Innovation agendas, discussing the scientific and technological challenges for the establishment of the PV market and solar-grade silicon industries in Brazil.

The event’s target audience was consisted of professionals of companies throughout the photovoltaics supply chain, decision makers, technical groups, teachers, researches, and graduate and postgraduate students of universities and research institutions from all over the country.

INOVA FV, coordinated by prof. Gilberto De Martino Jannuzzi, was promoted and organized by the Interdisciplinary Center of Energy Planning (NIPE) of Unicamp and the Latin American Office of the International Energy Initiative (IEI-LA) and counted with the partnership of the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development (ABDI), linked to the Ministry of Industry Development and Commerce; of the Center for Strategic Studies and Management (CGEE) and the Center for Information Technology Renato Archer (CTI), linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation; and of the Unicamp's Innovation Agency (INOVA).

The event was sponsored by the companies Gehrlicher and Siemens; by the Federal Agency of Support and Evaluation of Postgraduate Education (CAPES); by São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and the Fund for the Support of Teaching, Research and Extension (FAEPEX) of Unicamp.

The main results were:

Synergy and Call to Action

Synergy, coordination and call to action were the keywords used by the various actors for the development of the PV supply and service chains in Brazil. Especially in a market increasingly dynamic, global and competitive, whose time response has proved increasingly shorter. Actions without synergy are likely prone to fail and produce insecurity among actors.

Market segments, needs and actions

The conditions for the establishment of the market itself in Brazil (internal and external) are still to be created.  For the different market segments, there are different needs and measures to be adopted. Therefore, it is necessary to identify and group the segments, identify the needs, assess potential markets (internal and external), put into practice action agendas and make investments aiming to the creation of new companies and/or the creation of new business opportunities to existing companies.

This is exactly the operational proposal being conducted by ABDI (Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development), linked to MDIC (Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade), and presented at the event. The representative of the Agency invited the members of government and industry to jointly participate in the proposal.

Domestically, the introduction of photovoltaic solar energy should be large enough to stimulate its market and small enough to avoid negative impacts on tariff affordability and security of supply. It is worth mentioning that the definition of the size of this market should explore the existing opportunities for the competitive introduction into the international market.

Government and private sector initiatives

Important movements have been made in the federal and private levels as presented by their representatives. It is worth stressing that such initiatives should continue in coordination with each other.

At the federal level, the MME concluded in late 2009 the final report of the Working Group of Distributed Generation with Photovoltaic Systems (GT-GDSF) to support the development of a policy proposal to deploy grid-connected systems, especially in urban buildings, in the short, medium and long term. One of the results is the pilot project "120 Roofs", funded by FINEP (Research and Project Financing). The MME announced that it has created a new working group to look further at three specific questions: regulatory aspects, forms of trading the energy generated by "solar roof" systems and centralized generation. The deadline for completion is 18 months.

The MCT, through CGEE (Center of Strategic Management and Studies), published in 2009 a propositional study of recommendations to support the formulation and implementation of incentive policies to encourage technological innovation and industrial participation of Brazil in the solar and electronic grade silicon and PV market. More than one hundred people involved with the sector were consulted.

During the event, the representative of the MCT announced that the PACTI 2011-2014 (Plan of Action on Science, Technology and Innovation) will direct continual investments in solar PV and the Plan would be presented to the community for discussion at the end of March.

Under the network SIBRATEC (Brazilian Technology System), the MCT is making operational a network of solar photovoltaic technology this year with investments of R$ 8 million, whose objective is to meet companies demands through financing RD&I projects (with co-financing from companies themselves) involving innovation centers of the network.

ABDI is mapping, together with the companies, the demands to support an industrial policy for the development of photovoltaic industry in Brazil.

Within the private sector, the ABINEE (Brazilian Electrical and Electronics Industry Association) has recently created the Photovoltaic Sectorial Group aiming to find and propose strategies and demands of the companies for the sector. There are currently more than 50 participating companies (ABINEE’s members and non-members) and still increasing.

Due to the prospects of this market, the number of companies in the country is increasing, whether new or already established abroad.

There are Brazilian companies which have been individually betting on this market by investing on their own. Some examples presented by companies in the event are:

1. The construction by Tecnometal of a production line for photovoltaic modules. In the first stage, manufactured with national and international purchased components (2 to 20 MWp/ year). Subsequently, modules manufacturing with national silicon, when a production capacity of 100 MWp/year is expected by 2013. The company already commercialize their products to the market;

2. Research investments on silicon purification to attain solar grade through metallurgical route (e.g the companies RIMA and Minas Ligas), less energy-consuming and is part of the production line of the existing metallurgical grade-silicon industrial park;

3. Due to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, to be held in Brazil, some power distribution companies are investing in the concept of Solar Stadiums as Cemig, Light and Coelba. Solar Airports are also important opportunities;

4. A 1 MWp solar photovoltaic plant is being built in Tauá (State of Ceara, Northern Brazil) by MPX, whose plans are to expand to 5 MWp and 50 MWp;

5.  CP Electronics, traditionally in the no-break segment, has developed a 3 kW inverter for stand alone and grid-connected photovoltaic applications.

The role of Eletrobras as a promoter

Eletrobras, a Brazilian government-owned holding company in the power sector, has an important role in promoting the technology. Some initiatives have been carried out, but increase the scale and better articulation of these actions are needed.

These initiatives comprise stand alone and grid-connected system applications. In the first case, given the existence of 800,000 families to be provided with electricity access, pilot projects are being conducted to test technologies and processes, whose learning and best practices can be transferred as solutions to distribution utilities to achieve universal access and to support the national power regulator (ANEEL) to improve the regulation.

In the second case, through its subsidiary (Eletrosul), the Megawatt Solar Project will install at the company headquarters a grid-connected solar photovoltaic plant of approximately 1 MWp (1,060 kWp) at an estimated total cost of R$ 10 million. All the electricity generated will be traded in the wholesale market. The main objective is to acquire experience with the technology.

Regulatory Aspects

ANEEL prepares a draft resolution for public hearing in 2011 to reduce existing regulatory barriers to connect small distributed generation in the power distribution network. The draft will be based on the contributions that were received through the Public Consultation No. 015/2010, whose technical note and report analyzing the contributions were posted on the regulator’s website.

A point of considerable importance and urgency is the need for a specific regulation to the power generation systems associated with mini-grids in the context of universal electricity access.

Another pressing concern is the restriction of the existing two-year “political window” to promote any change in electricity rates due to the 2014 elections.

The CCC (Fossil Fuel Consumption Account) can be a support vector to photovoltaics, in particular, and other renewable sources, in general, in isolated areas. Even though the current rules allow such support, it has not been sufficient enough. A more virtuous use of these CCC funds is required, providing clear priority to the use of solar photovoltaics and other renewable energy sources.

Mutual Interest

The current gaining interest by the Federal Government, industries, manufacturers, utilities and service companies in the photovoltaic solar energy market in Brazil associated with the industrial development was evident. At different stages, these actors are currently evaluating the prospects, barriers and actions to develop this market of global dimension, but still starting to exist in the country.

The several representatives presented in the event showed a consensual opinion of the important opportunities and potentials that the country is endowed to benefit from the establishment of a supply chain of materials, equipment and high value-added services focused on the domestic and international markets.

Even with the clear recognition of these important opportunities and potential that Brazil is endowed with, it was also agreed upon the urgency of a clear and effective public policy for the next two years. Otherwise, the country can miss the opportunity window that is open and become a major importer of technology in the future, especially when all the players have shown clear interest in establishing this market associated with industrial development in the country.