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Project February 25, 2022

Inequality in the Production and Distribution of Energy in the State of Pará



While the state of Pará is home to two of the three largest hydroelectric plants in Brazil, Belo Monte and Tucuruí, it is also the place where the fewest amount of people have access to electricity.

This inequality is due to the archaic form of electricity distribution, which is made through cables. Extending the electric grid in the region is not as profitable for the concessionaires as it is in the metropolitan regions of the south and southeast. For example, in São Paulo there are hundreds of thousands of electricity users within 1 km, while in Pará, between one community and another, it is possible to be without any users for 10 km or more.

Since the Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC) government, there have been social programs to expand the distribution of electricity in the Amazon region (Luz no Campo under FHC, Luz Para Todos under Lula/Dilma, and Mais Luz Para Amazônia under Bolsonaro). Therefore, the main task of the winner of the privatization auction, Eletrobrás, will be precisely to invest in the Legal Amazon. Coming into force in 2023, the company, by contract, will have to pay annual contributions of R$ 295 million (updated by IPCA) over 10 years—for just this region.

The alternative that has been most studied for isolated communities is photovoltaics. In 2018, the Extractive Reserve (Resex) Verde para Sempre installed solar energy panels to circumvent the problem of lack of energy after almost ten years of fighting against the Ministry of Mines and Energy, which had plans to pass a power transmission line inside the unit—which, according to residents, would disrespect the isolation of communities in the region. The imbroglio only ended in 2017, when they decided to install photovoltaic system units of the Federal Government's Light for All Program.

Although the region has a rainy period and cloudy days, photovoltaic energy is still the best cost-effective alternative. However, it is important to emphasize that it is not the only one: there are also hydrokinetic uses (water wheels), wind power generation, and different types of biomass (biogas or the use of biodiesel or vegetable oils in generators), which can broaden the range of possibilities according to the demands of each community.

Access to electric energy is a social right guaranteed in the Brazilian Constitution, but the way it can reach the communities can be very harmful. The construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, for example, is one of the most glaring examples of what poor planning can cost. And as if the irreversible damage to both the environment and the communities were not enough, the hydroelectric plant does not even reach the 11.23 GW promised, delivering a mere 4.46 GW, according to the National Agency of Electrical Energy (Aneel). And even six years after its inauguration, the damage predicted by engineers and environmentalists at the time of construction continues to materialize.