Implementing innovative uses of clean technologies to support Brazil’s energy transition

Published on
August 1, 2020

Brazil is an emerging leader in renewable energy with enormous potential in solar, wind and biomass. However, growth in renewable energy in Brazil is likely to be severely affected by recent economic shocks. When it has grown it has failed to impact the lives of the poorest in society. Furthermore, the growth potential is limited by the relatively closed nature of the Brazilian economy.

The biodiesel market, for example, has been dominated by large biofuel producers at the expense of small farmers and biodiversity; solar energy has grown exponentially but only in the upper and middle-income market segments; waste-to-energy has struggled to attract investment despite enormous resources and favourable legislation; offshore wind lacks a regulatory framework and Brazil’s vast deposits of natural gas have not been leveraged to support transition to a low carbon economy.

Through the Brazil Energy Programme (BEP), we are working with the Ministry of Mines and Energy to develop mechanisms that will help small farmers participate in biofuel supply chains, models that will allow solar businesses to service low-income energy consumers, guidelines and capacity so that municipalities can raise finance and launch waste to energy initiatives, frameworks for offshore wind producers to make confident investments and market reforms that will allow natural gas to support transition to renewable energies.

BEP works by bringing UK and Brazilian expertise together to demonstrate new technologies, test out new business models and provide advisory support to Brazil’s government officials so that they can move the renewable energy agenda forward. We are working at both the federal level with ministries and regulatory agencies on issues such as emissions trading, regulatory frameworks and environmental standards, and at the state and municipality level on competitiveness and investment.

The focus for all interventions is on making renewable energy inclusive so that it increases affordability of electricity and fuel to consumers, creates jobs for women, the poor and marginalized, and reduces the impact of climate change on those who are most vulnerable to its effects.

A central aspect of BEP initiative is a series of technology pilot projects in Brazil, where local and international companies design scalable UK-led projects to demonstrate innovative use of low carbon technologies such as solar, storage, smart grids, biogas and biodiesel. The first pilot involves installation of photovoltaic panels, batteries and smart monitoring systems, providing energy to low income families in a community in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area, with strong engagement from a utility company and the community.

While BEP is at the early stages of a 3-year implementation, the ambition is to:

  • Reduce carbon emissions by 500,000t CO2
  • Create 2,500 jobs in the renewable energy sector
  • Increase R&D spending on renewable energy by 30%
  • Increase energy affordability by 1%
  • Secure over £50m of investment in the Brazilian renewable energy sector