Experts point to challenges in increasing scale of distributed generation in Brazil

If the 2015 Cleaner Energy Seminar was more technical and conceptual in debating alternatives and challenges of the energy sector as a whole, the 7th edition of the event, sponsored by Instituto Ideal and the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), had a more practical approach. That was the conclusion of the president of Instituto Ideal, Mauro Passos, after two discussion panels and a workshop with national experts, which discussed ways to popularize distributed generation. “The subject of alternative energy is relevant not only to Brazil, but to the whole world. Here specifically, the market has expanded to such an extent that the scene is more competitive,” observed Passos.

The executive secretary of the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), Fernando Ferreira, alerted an audience of over 200 students, researchers, and entrepreneurs to the fact that there are approximately 30 million people without access to energy in Latin America and the Caribbean. Ferreira believes that this is a valuable opportunity to expand the alternative energy market. “This modality is no longer just a sustainable or environmentally friendly business, but is especially financially beneficial. Promoting spaces such as this Seminar for discussion and the exchange of knowledge and experiences is very important for spreading this culture,” said Ferreira.

State representative Dirceu Dresch (PT) was also present at the opening ceremony, representing the Legislative Assembly of the State of Santa Catarina, as well as representatives from the sponsors Engie Solar, Caixa, Banco Regional de Desenvolvimento Extremo Sul (BRDE), and Quantum Engenharia. The following supporting institutions were also represented: CELESC, WWF Brazil, German Cooperation for Sustainable Development through GIZ, and FIESC.


Incentives for mobilization

At the event, the president of Ideal and the coordinator of Climate Change and Energy at WWF-Brazil, André Nahur, signed an agreement to reinforce the partnership between the two entities for the continuity of the Solar Label project. According to the project manager of Ideal, Paula Scheidt, new guidelines for the label, which certifies and recognizes companies, homes, and public and private institutions that invest in solar electricity, should be presented before the end of July this year.

Participants of the Seminar also saw at first hand the institutional video of América do Sol, Brazil’s largest photovoltaic solar energy dissemination program in Brazil. The audiovisual presentation was produced by socio-environmental cinematographer Todd Southgate and journalist Andressa Braun, communications advisor at Ideal.  The film has subtitled versions in Spanish and English, and is supported by Eletrosul Eletrobrás, the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Click here to watch.


Inspiration by example

The event’s first panel aimed to present ways to popularize distributed energy in the business sector. It was mediated by Mauro Passos and featured the president of the Câmara de Energia (Chamber of Energy) at FIESC, Otmar Josef Müller, planning manager of BRDE, Felipe de Castro Couto, and president of Engie Solar, Rodolfo de Sousa Pinto. Müller highlighted that the dissemination of renewable energy is an important subject for industry in the state of Santa Catarina, due to the increase in competition that it can generate. He pointed to credit line extensions and ICMS tax exemption as the organization’s main attributes in this context.

Also presented in this panel were the funding lines available for distributed generation projects, and dissemination challenges. The president of Engie Energia presented the historical evolution of solar energy in Brazil, and he emphasized that focusing on the target audience is essential for stimulating installation in both the private market and the business sector. “There are different modalities for connecting to the distribution grid. We must increase understanding of this, so that the investment becomes more and more profitable. However, we demand that conditions are as favourable for small consumers as for large enterprises,” he said.

The second panel focused on the popularization of distributed generation in cities, and was mediated by the Climate Change and Energy coordinator of WWF-Brazil, André Nahur. It brought together the regulatory expert of ANEEL, Marco Aurélio Lenzi Castro, fundraising advisor of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTI), Daniel Chang, project assistant of the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation (DGRV), Camila Japp, and technical management analyst of Organização das Cooperativas Brasileiras (OCB, Organisation for Brazilian Cooperatives), Marco Olivio Morato de Oliveira.

Castro presented the main changes from Normative Resolution no. 482/2012, which created the Electric Energy Offset System. “Without a doubt, the dissemination of distributed generation is a bottom-up process, where private enterprises should act independently without depending only on the government”, he stressed. Among the points highlighted by the MCTI representative were the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a proposal approved by the UN in September 2015 as an effective evolution of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have clean and accessible energy as their objective.

The potential of cooperatives as consumers and also producers of renewable energy was a consensus among DGRV and OCB representatives. For Camila, the typical cooperative business model not only favors regional development, but particularly the empowerment of citizens, a crucial aspect for the popularization of the advancement of renewable energies. According to Oliveira, in the Brazilian context the cost of equipment, the shortage of skilled workers, fluctuations in the market, and the lack of an investment culture for long-term projects are some of the challenges in the expansion process of this sector.


Workshops

The workshops were one of the new features of this 7th edition of the Cleaner Energy Seminar. Moderated by Professor Ricard Rüther, the first part of the activity focused on technical standards and procedures. Marco Aurélio Lenzi Castro demonstrated a step-by-step procedure for a PV system connected to the grid, and Celesc engineer Thiago de Oliveira Cassel explained the distributor’s connection standards. Ruy Tiedje, an engineer from Quantum Engenharia, compared the evolution of distributed energy in different regions of the country, and emphasized that gaining consumer trust is one of the greatest challenges for the expansion of this market. “It is essential to invest in post-sale processes, fostering greater dialogue among consumers, utilities, and distributors, especially in order to follow the changes in the consumption profile after the installation of the generation system.”

The last stage of the workshop brought up one of the hottest topics related to the popularization of distributed energy: financial return on investment. The CEO of Solar Energy do Brasil, Hewerton Martins, affirmed that consumers need to be educated to become producers of their own energy, which involves aspects such as consumer perception with regards to the energy bill, and the concept of self-consumption. The business director of Sicoob Ecocredi, João Correa Júnior, shared his experience of building the cooperative’s new administrative headquarters, located in Três Coroas in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.  The building is notable for its energy generation system. It has 184 photovoltaic panels in 10 arrangements, which can generate an average of 69.030 kWh/year to supply 50% of the energy demand at the site. The investment was around R$300,000, and the average payback period is 8 years.

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