Hydropower holds the key to energy integration between South American countries, according to Brazil’s energy minister Altino Ventura Filho.

Speaking at the Latin American Hydropower Summit, he said an integrated system which would be “an example for the world” would be in place in “the medium to long term”.

Filho highlighted work that was already underway, including the development by Brazil and Argentina of two hydroelectric plants along the Uruguay River, which forms part of the border between the two countries.

The plants, Garabí and Panambí, will have a combined capacity of 2200 MW by 2020.

Gonzalo Casaravilla, president of UTE, Uruguay’s state electric utility, said his country would be ready to integrate with Brazil’s grid by next year.

“In winter, we need energy from Brazil, and in spring we have energy to offer,” Casaravilla said, explaining how much of Uruguay’s electricity come from hydro plants which rely on water from two rivers.

Sinval Zaidan Gama, head of foreign operations at Brazil’s state-owned power company Eletrobras (NYSE: EBR), told the summit of plans to interconnect Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname, small territories which also have vast hydropower potential.

He said they could feed electricity not just to themselves, but also to their more power-hungry neighbours.

Eletrobras has 42 projects in the pipeline in 16 countries, but “many are in the embryonic stage” and just 30 to 40 per cent will actually come to fruition, Gama admitted.

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