The capacity in own generation of electric energy, also called Distributed Generation (GD), reached in Brazil the volume of 23 gigawatts (GW). Solar energy accounts for more than 98% of total DG, which also includes wind, biomass and other types of energy. According to the Brazilian Association of Distributed Generation (ABGD), Brazil is part of the group of the ten biggest producers of solar energy in the world. The forecast for this year is for the sector to invest around BRL 38 billion and reach 26GW of generated power by December.
ABGD data indicate that currently the country already has more than 3 million consumer units (UC’s) that use their own energy generation. According to the entity, each UC represents a residence, a commercial establishment or other property supplied by micro or mini plants, all of them using renewable sources.
Brazil’s territorial extension and climate conditions have favored the growth of distributed generation with the installation of photovoltaic systems in homes, businesses and industries. Technological advances and government incentives have also made distributed generation increasingly attractive. This evolution has resulted in a drop in costs for the purchase of equipment, installation and maintenance.
“The greater the number of interested parties, companies that are in Brazil and equipment distributors, this greatly increased the number of people doing installation. All this over time helped to have a more competitive price”, said the president of ABGD, Guilherme Chrispim, in an interview with Agência Brasil.
According to Djalma Falcão, professor of electrical engineering at the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering (Coppe), at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the first resolution by the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel) to the GD was in 2012, but only in 2016 the demand started to increase, with very fast growth in the last three or four years.
Reduction in bills
In addition to being a cleaner type of energy and a renewable source, the economy is another factor that arouses the interest of consumers and entrepreneurs and has allowed the sector to advance. Chrispim cited the savings he experienced at home after he installed the system. “Before having the system, I had an average monthly bill of around R$800, sometimes a little more in the winter months, today the average bill is around R$120. It’s a lot!”, he informed, adding that in some states the difference can be even greater with the exemption of taxes on energy.
“That is determined by the tax legislation of each state. It has been charging ICMS on energy. Minas Gerais, for example, does not charge. It makes a difference in some cases as a result of charges that some states have exempted. In some states you have greater compensation for the energy you are generating”, highlighted Chrispim.
To bring its own generation of electricity to another part of the population, the NGO Revolusolar, created seven years ago, develops projects in communities such as Babilônia, in the south zone of Rio. There, currently 34 families participate in the program, including Bruna Santos, who is president of the Percília e Lúcio renewable energy cooperative, founded in January 2021.
Revolusolar installed a plant in the community and the perspective, according to the president, is that by the end of the year the number of plants will be expanded, reaching 100 families included in this type of energy supply.
“Today we have one plant in operation, one in approval and three in preparation for operation. By the end of 2023, we will have four plants in operation. There are currently 34 houses and the idea is to expand to reach 100 beneficiary families by the end of the year,” Bruna told Agência Brasil.
The 34 families that already participate in the program, according to the president, were chosen through a call made by Revolusolar for the registration of those interested in joining the project. Now, for the expansion of cooperative members, there will again be a call for the NGO. “They come in as soon as possible. Now, with the second plant, another group will enter and we will make a new call as people are signing up and have the capacity to include them in the plant, this is done”, informed Bruna.
A survey carried out last year revealed where the people included in the project were investing the amount of the reduction in accounts. “Some have reverted to food, which was complicated. People had to choose between paying the electricity bill or eating and now they are buying more food. There are some people who use it for leisure, others to buy medication. So, people have managed to balance the budget”, said the president of the Cooperative.
For Bruna, the development of the project represents a change for the inhabitants of Babilônia and the democratization of solar energy. The first installation in the community was in 2018 at Escolinha Tia Percilia.
Revolusolar’s executive director, Eduardo Ávila, said that the project is carried out in partnership with residents, community leaders and outside technical partners. In addition to generating its own energy, it trains residents to use the systems. “The first cooperative in solar energy in favelas in Brazil was created there. In order to have autonomy and self-sufficiency in the community, there is also a professional training program for solar electricians to install and maintain the systems, in addition to educational and cultural activities with children and the community as a whole to participate in this process”, he revealed to reporting.
Eduardo Ávila informed that Revolusolar has recently been replicating the model to other communities such as Maré and Cidade Nova, in Rio, and to other states such as São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, in addition to an indigenous community in Amazonas, to make more institutions and communities also receive this benefit from the solar revolution, he added.
To find out which system is needed, the consumer’s first step is to hire an installer or integrator, a professional who will assess the size of the system to be used according to the energy demand. If it is less than demand, the difference will have to be met by the distributor and instead of credit, the consumer will have an invoice to pay. But the opposite can happen and install a larger capacity, if the consumer is thinking about making more use of energy in the future. The professional’s calculation is based on the average annual consumption.
“It’s like any consumption, for example, of water. The system to be made will consider your consumption, how many people are in the house. Anyway, the idea is to keep your generation of monthly consumption very close”, concluded the president of ABGD.
Even in a building with several residents the system can be installed. The credits are passed on to the tenants, who, in this case, will have their CPFs registered. The professor clarified that at night, when it is not possible to produce energy in these systems due to lack of sun, the consumer has the supply made by the distributors. nonetheless, the rest of the day you can consume the amount you produce.
“It’s the credit system. It’s an exchange. If people produce more than they consume, they don’t earn anything because they can’t sell that energy, now if they produce less than they consume, they have to pay the distributor”, pointed out Falcão in an interview with Agência Brasil.
Investment costs vary depending on the amount of energy needed and taxes charged by the state where the system is installed. Chrispim calculated that a family of four people, on average, depending on the weather situation in the state, can consume approximately 600kw/h per month and therefore will need a 5k or 6k system (equivalent to 6 thousand watts). “Costs have decreased in recent months, the system will cost around R$18,000,” he said, adding that there are already many banks, both public and private, offering financing lines for photovoltaic systems to interested parties.
Chrispim drew attention to the comparison between the installed capacity of distributed generation and that offered by the Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant. While in distributed generation it is currently 23 gigawatts, Itaipu is at 14 gigawatts. “You can say that almost all municipalities in Brazil have at least one distributed generation plant”, he revealed, noting that usually the installation is on the roofs of properties.
According to Djalma Falcão, the forecast is that in two years the capacity of DG spread over the roofs of houses and buildings in Brazil will exceed by more than twice that of the Itaipu Power Plant, which is the biggest in the country. “It is a significant thing and is even starting to raise concerns for the National System Operator [ONS], because it is much more difficult to control this scattered generation than in a concentrated plant. The operator is trying to improve its operating techniques to take into account this new type of generation that is growing”, he warned.
Falcão highlighted the importance of distributed generation for Brazil’s energy transition. “Undoubtedly [contribui], because most of this generation is zero-emission photovoltaic, so it is a renewable source and further increases our percentage of renewable energy in the electrical system. So, it is positive for the energy transition”, he evaluated, adding that at the moment DG is growing more than other renewable sources, but the tendency is for it to stabilize in the four-year horizon and the large solar and wind power plants to advance more with the increase in demand.
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