Brazil may avoid rolling blackouts

The Brazilian government said Wednesday it has ruled out for now the possibility of California-style rolling blackouts to contain a brimming electricity crisis. Citing better-than-expected results from the government’s energy-rationing program in effect since the beginning of June, Pedro Parente, head of the government’s energy task force, said the possibility of blackouts had been ruled out until at least the second half of August.

Rolling blackouts are a rotating system of withholding electricity from areas, one at a time, to conserve energy. “If the rationing continues as it has, the risk of blackouts gets smaller, but it is not non-existent,” said Parente, who has been dubbed the “blackout minister” by the local press.

Parente made his remarks at a press conference where the government unveiled an alternative plan if the current one fails. The alternative would require consumers to reduce electricity use by 20 percent or face fines and service cuts. The new plan would impose a four-day work week and blackouts of no longer than four hours a day per consumer. Parente said if rainfall conditions continue to improve, or remain as they are now, the probability of blackouts will be “very low” during the rationing period that runs until December.

Water reservoirs in Brazil’s southeast and central regions, which power Brazil’s largest hydroelectric plants, were 28.05 per cent full, or 1.59 percentage point higher than forecasts. In the northeast, which has seen one of the worst dry spells in recent years, water reservoirs were also better – 23.31 per cent full, or 0.17 percentage point above expectations.

An unusually dry summer, which is Brazil’s rainy season, left water reservoirs at record low levels this year, meaning the country’s power network, which runs almost exclusively on hydroelectric energy, can’t keep pace with demand. A lack of investment in the sector and inadequate expansion strategies further worsened the scenario, analysts say, leading the government to impose the rationing plan, which includes heavy surcharges for consumers who go over their power quota.

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