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What are the next steps for Brazil to generate energy on the high seas?


The decree that promises to make it possible to generate wind energy on the high seas in the country is already in force. According to a study by the Energy Research Company (EPE), the standard has the potential to guarantee production equivalent to 50 hydroelectric plants in Itaipus, but it is only the first step towards putting turbines in motion off the Brazilian coast.

Effective June 15, any orders placed to produce electricity from wind offshore along the Brazilian coast must comply with the rules listed. The text defines a rite for the contracting of areas under the Union’s domain (or prisms, since they are three-dimensional subdivisions, covering not only the seabed, but also the depth of the water depth) for the generation of energy, but the understanding is that the formatting of a more robust regulatory apparatus is still necessary , which gives more legal certainty to investors and provides more clarity on the exploitation of the activity.

In this way, the sector continues to look forward to new regulatory advances to effectively make feasible projects that intend to plant their generating parks in the submerged sands (or make them float on the Atlantic).

According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy in a note to Gazeta do Povo, “there are currently more than 40 projects with a license request from Ibama, with a potential installed capacity of more than 100 GW”. The number is much higher than the total capacity of wind power installed on land today – of 21.95 GW, positioned as the second largest generator in the Brazilian matrix. Despite this, none of them actually started the assignment process and there is no forecast of auctions for assignment of use according to the folder.

Energy at sea has growing interest and competition in sight

In more precise numbers (although potentially outdated), data from Ibama published in April pointed to 54 projects of the type with an environmental licensing process open with the agency. Together, they exceed 130 GW in power, but more than 60% of them overlap each other, in a scenario that will demand clearer rules to establish who must obtain authorization to operate, and there is greater interest in certain areas.

The mentioned projects are distributed along the coast of Ceará (11), Espírito Santo (4), Piauí (4), Rio de Janeiro (9), Rio Grande do Norte (8), Rio Grande do Sul (17) and Santa Catarina ( 1), the only state not to present “competition” in terms of prisms, precisely because it has a single license attempt for power generation on the high seas. In all others there is at least an overlap of interest.

Ibama data also show a jump in demand for licenses for offshore wind, coinciding with the publication of the decree, in January.

Orders of the type began to emerge in 2019, slowly evolved until the turn of 2021, and from there the interest picked up speed. Until December 2020, licensing processes for offshore wind farms did not exceed ten, but more than doubled in the following twelve months, closing December 2021 at around 25. In 2022, the backlog of orders advanced to 54 in the first four months alone , but the number has certainly gone up since then.

Regulation for offshore wind could advance in August

A possible path to the expected advances for offshore energy generation is a regulatory framework project in progress in the Senate. In addition to the scope of the decree already in force, which is specifically dedicated to wind generation, PL 576/2021 provides for regulations for other sources that can produce energy on the high seas and in other bodies of water in the interior of the country, such as lakes and dams. .

The text intends to regulate the assignment of the right to use maritime areas for the purpose of generating energy, which becomes the object of granting upon authorization, solving problems of ownership and defining criteria for such (including payment similar to royalties and socio-environmental considerations) .

Filed in 2021, the matter is in the House Infrastructure Services Commission on a final basis – which means that what is resolved by the collegiate will have the value of a Senate decision, without the need for a vote in plenary. Before the start of the parliamentary recess in July, the vote on the project was postponed by a request for a view and is expected to resume in August.

Energy on the high seas will jump by 2030

Quick regulation for offshore is considered essential to avoid the risk of delays and the increase in the cost of projects waiting in the queue for release at national bodies. The concern is that there will be an increase in demand for equipment and that an eventual peak in demand will get in the way of future generation projects.

The fear is justified: according to a recent projection by the British consultancy Wood Mackenzie, approximately US$ 1 trillion should be injected into offshore wind energy in the next decade, “attracting a growing number of new competitors and intensifying competition”. The expectation is that these investments will almost tenfold the total installed capacity in the world, jumping from 34 GW in 2020 to 330 GW in 2030, and help to pull the interest and capital placed in the offshore developments, bringing them closer to the installations in land within the period.

It is worth mentioning that the rules established from now on should be converted into energy generation only in a medium and long term scenario. The expectation is that the first projects to be built offshore will only work in the 2030s, since the average time to get this type of project off the ground is eight years, longer than the onshore format – more expensive too.

Brazil has favorable conditions and potential as a generator

In the country, the National Energy Plan 2050, prepared by Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (state-owned company in charge of planning the sector), forecasts that the offshore wind source will reach an installed capacity of up to 16 GW that year, regardless of the indication of high growth. of onshore wind farms.

In the assessment of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, “Brazil has notably favorable characteristics for the installation and operation of projects for the generation of offshore electricity”. million km²), wide continental shelf, with shallow waters along the coast, and also the incidence of trade winds, constant in intensity and direction, especially in the Northeast region.

A study also carried out by EPE to identify the Brazilian offshore wind potential and published in 2020 highlighted areas where wind speeds are greater than 7 m/s (considered more attractive for this type of generation). The results indicate that, at a height of 100 m and in places with a depth of up to 50 meters, Brazil’s potential would be 697 GW: equivalent to almost 50 times the generation capacity of the largest Brazilian hydroelectric plant.

The analyses, however, “did not consider any restrictions on exploitable areas, such as environmental protection areas, trade routes, migratory routes for birds, oil exploration areas or other areas with conflicting uses”, as the EPE itself emphasizes.

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