Brazil has the largest hydro resources in South America, with an estimated technical potential of 3,040 TWh/yr. However, less than a third, about 818 TWh/yr, is considered economically exploitable, of which Brazil has already exploited over half. On top of that, plants with a capacity of less than 30 MW are estimated to have an economically exploitable capacity of 11.2 TWh/yr.
During 2016, 9,526 MW was added to the national electricity grid, the highest value in the historical records since 1998. The hydropower sector represents 55 per cent of this total. However, the recent recession experienced by Brazil’s economy caused a slowdown in electricity demand growth. The demand in 2015 and 2016 remained practically unchanged compared to that of 2014, mainly driven by the fall in industry consumption. In 2017, Brazil expects to increase installed hydropower capacity by about 4,000 MW.
In December 2016, the 3,750 MW Jirau hydropower project, located on the Madeira River in the state of Rondônia, close to the border with Bolivia, was inaugurated. The plant is operated by Energia Sustentável do Brasil, where Engie is the largest shareholder. The project is certified by the Clean Development Mechanism of the United Nations for the commercialisation of carbon credits. Jirau is part of a hydroelectric complex on the Madeira River.
The Santo Antônio run-of-river plant is located downstream of the Jirau plant with a total capacity of 3,568 MW. A third project, Guayaramerín, will be located on the border between Brazil and Bolivia, and a fourth, Cachuela Esperanza, will be located further upstream in Bolivia. The complex is framed on the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), an initiative to build an infrastructure network by South American national governments, to satisfy both increasing energy demands and navigational interests.
During 2016, other highlights of hydroelectric generation are the increase of commercial operation from the existing plants: 652 MW entered into operation in Santo Antônio, 1,092 MW in Teles Pires, and 518.8 MW in Maranhão III.
Belo Monte, the second largest hydropower development in Brazil, activated its first turbines in April 2016 and by December 2016, Belo Monte already had 1,989 MW in commercial operation. Located on the Xingu River in the state of Pará, it represents the largest 100-per-cent national development, with a total installed capacity of 11,233 MW, with 24 turbines divided into two powerhouses.
Small hydropower plants, defined in Brazil as lower than 30 MW, comprised 203 MW added capacity in 2016.
Hydropower provides services to support the intermittency of increasing wind and solar power installations in Brazil. The state-owned Energy Research Company identified new potential hydroelectric projects that could add 50.7 GW of energy storage to the national interconnected system to reduce the fragility of the grid to climatic variations. In addition, Brazil is investigating new technology to increase the resilience of the energy system, and has invested in floating solar pilot projects at the Balbina and Sobradinho reservoirs.
In 2016, ANEEL granted new operating licences for 29 existing hydropower plants with a total installed capacity of 6,000 MW. China Three Gorges Corporation’s Brazilian subsidiary, CTG Brasil, successfully bid for the highest lot formed by Jupiá and Ilha Solteira in the river Paraná (1,551 MW and 3,444 MW respectively) for about USD 746 million. CTG paid USD 2.81 billion to the Brazilian Government for that concession right. At the end of the year, CTG Brasil completed the acquisition of Duke Energy assets in Brazil with 2,274 MW, increasing its installed capacity in the country to 8.27 GW.
This country profile is featured in the 2017 Hydropower Status Report. You can download the full report here.
This profile was last updated in May 2017.