By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The government of Brazil is discussing measures to reinforce the generation of energy in the country after a partial blackout in eleven states and the capital, Brasília, on Monday, January 19th. The causes of Monday’s blackout are still in dispute, the Ministry of Mines and Energy stated that the lack of electricity was due to problems in the transmission network between the North and Southeastern regions of Brazil.
In a conflicting position, the ONS (National Electric System Operator) stated that what occurred was a controlled shutdown of energy transmission to prevent an overload in the system due to the increased demand in electricity in the South-Southeastern regions.
Among the measures announced by the Mines and Energy Minister, Eduardo Braga, are the early start of operations of thermoelectric plants owned by Petrobras and additional energy transfers from the Itaipu Plant to the Southeastern region of the country. According to Minister Braga, an additional 1,500 megawatts will be added to the region’s electric system.
In Rio de Janeiro, according to Agencia Brasil, the cuts in electricity were concentrated in the West and Northern neighborhoods of the city as well as in towns surrounding the metropolitan area. In São Paulo, several metro lines were halted for over an hour due to the power outage. Some passengers left trains and had to walk on metro rails to reach the stations.
Minister Braga, said during a press conference on Tuesday that if delays in large hydroelectric projects, such as the one in Belo Monte (Pará) and those of Jirau and Santo Antonio (Rondonia) had not occurred, the interruption of electricity would not have happened. The construction of the three hydroelectric projects has been halted by the courts due to environmental restrictions.
Braga also said that the drought faced by the Southeast in 2014 have left those hydroelectric reservoirs in operation at critical levels. “In 2015 they [hydroelectric plants] started out with less water and the rainfall in January was very scarce, especially in those locations,” said Braga.
Over sixty percent of Brazil’s electricity is generated by hydroelectric plants and as reservoir water levels decline the government has been forced to turn on thermoelectric plants, which increase electricity bills. The year of 2014 was one of the hottest in Brazil and rainfall in the Southeastern region was significantly below normal.