02 de outubro de 2017

The bottleneck of the national system of energy

Belo Monte may have to reduce the pace of its production of energy due to delays in the construction of transmission lines, whose capacity is not enough to connect the plant to the National Interconnected System




Located in the state of Pará, the power plant of Belo Monte is the third largest hydroelectric plant of the world in installed capacity. It is only smaller than the Three Gorges plant, in China (20300 MW) and the Brazilian/Paraguayan Itaipu (14000 MW). The plant is producing more power than it can deliver to the National Interconnected System (SIN). This could be motive of proud for Brazilian people, but it actually shows one of the large bottlenecks of our energy system: the lack of an efficient system of power transmission that could face the needs of consumption and development of the country.

The month of September was the milestone of this announced crisis. Till this month, the plant was operating with six turbines of the main power house and six turbines of lower capacity installed in the complementary power house. This situation allowed the plant to produce the power of 3899 megawatts (MW), the maximum power that may be supported by the existing transmission lines. But two more turbines of 611 MW each will start to generate between September and December. The additional power would be enough to supply more than 2.1 million persons. But there are no transmission lines to carry this additional production. Therefore, Belo Monte will have to operate below its capacity, switching off these turbines.

This technical restriction is known from a long time by the concessionaire Norte Energia, owner of Belo Monte, and by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) and the National Operator of the Electric System (ONS). And the cause is assigned to the chronic delay in the works contracted to increase transmission lines. Most of these projects are under responsibility of the Spanish contractor Abengoa, that has not less than nine contracts of line concession, in a total of 6000 km, with investments estimated in R$ 7 billion.

Going through a process of receivership in Spain since November, 2016, Abengoa was systematically delaying the works. This forced the Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica (Aneel – National Agency of Electric Energy) to recommend the contract cancellation to the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

One of the main projects of Abengoa was the pré-Belo Monte line—more than 1000 km long—that would supply power to the whole Northeastern region crossing the state of Bahia. The company finished only 35 percent of this project.

With the end of the contract, Abengoa—which had its performance securities of R$ 350 million foreclosed—was impeded of participating in new concession auctions of the area for at least two years. Then the Chinese company State Grid Brazil Holding S/A assumed the challenge of completing the works in 50 months. The company won the auction of power transmission carried out in July 15 by ANEEL at the BM&F Bovespa. The total length of transmission lines is of 2550 km corresponding to 7800 Mw of installed capacity in the states of Pará, Tocantins, Goiás, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro.

The Chinese company also integrates the consortium Interligação Elétrica Belo Monte (IE Belo Monte), in partnership with the Brazilian companies Eletronorte and Furnas, both controlled by Eletrobras. Carrying out an investment of R$ 5 billion, the consortium is responsible by the construction and operation of a 2092 km-long transmission line with two converter stations to drain the production from Pará to the Southeast of the country.

Since it won the auction of September 15, State Grid passed to be also responsible by the transmission in the second section of the transmission system that will drain the power generated by Belo Monte Hydroelectric Plant. This section will bring the energy to the station Terminal Rio, which will be built in the city of Paracambi, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Among the benefits of the program are the power increase in the Metropolitan Region of Rio, and the improvement of the system reliability for Northern and Southeastern regions.