DistribuTECH Expands to Brazil; A Country Serious About Energy Efficiency

Editor in chief TERESA HANSEN

During the past few weeks, I’ve made two trips to Brazil. Travel, occasionally to faraway places, is a perk (or sometimes a curse) of my job. These two trips were definitely a perk. PennWell is expanding DistribuTECH Conference & Exhibition outside the United States, and the first international event will be Sept. 25-27, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro.

I’m responsible for the content of the Brazilian event, so to prepare for my trips and the new conference, I began researching Brazil months ago. I knew little about it, other than it is home to Carnival and a good bit of the rainforest.

Brazil is much more. It’s the fifth-largest country in both land mass and population. In 2009, its gross domestic product was $1.58 trillion. About 75 percent of Brazil’s electricity is generated by large hydroelectric facilities, and some of the world’s largest hydro facilities are being built there. Many of the new hydro facilities are long distances from load centers, so new transmission infrastructure investment is needed. In addition, the country’s distribution utilities want to improve distribution system reliability by automating distribution systems, installing smart meters, implementing GIS systems and more. DistribuTECH will provide Brazilian utilities the opportunity to meet service and product suppliers and to learn how utilities throughout the world are dealing with challenges and opportunities.

Brazil’s federal government seems to understand the nation’s need for better infrastructure. The government’s Growth Acceleration Program provided $396 billion from 2007 to 2010 for infrastructure investment to support sustainable economic growth. The federal government implemented a second Growth Acceleration Program with an expected investment of $958 billion from 2011 through 2017. Together, the two programs will invest more than $1.35 trillion in the country’s infrastructure. Some $22.5 billion is set aside for electric grid improvements aimed at providing a more secure, reliable electricity supply. About $66 million in energy efficiency investment is planned to replace obsolete equipment with new, more efficient equipment.

The energy efficiency investment amount seems almost insignificant when compared with the more than $1.3 trillion total planned investment. Nevertheless, the investment can make a difference, and maybe it already has. I’ve seen one energy efficiency area in which Brazil leads the U.S. Because I travel frequently, I stay in a lot of hotels. Brazilian hotels are the first in which I’ve stayed that outwardly focus on saving electricity. The hotels require guests to use keycards to turn on electricity in their rooms, which ensures electricity is used only in occupied rooms. In addition, lights in halls and stairwells connect to motion sensors and illuminate, again, only when occupied. These simple, effective electricity-saving strategies and technologies are not new or cutting-edge, yet in all my previous travels, never had I encountered hotels with these features. One of the Brazilian hotels was newer, so I wasn’t surprised by the energy efficiency features. The other hotel, however, was at least 30 years old, so the energy efficiency feature had been added.

Why have I seen this in Brazil, which many believe lags the U.S. and Western Europe in technology and energy efficiency, but not in the U.S. or Europe? Is it because we have more capacity and can afford wasting it? Is it because we pay less for electricity, so installing energy-saving devices isn’t cost-effective? Or are Brazilians more conservation-minded than Americans? I don’t know, but I’ll probably find those answers and a lot more about Brazil’s electricity industry in the coming months.

PennWell believes Brazil is a good place to invest and DistribuTECH Brasil will provide value to Brazil and Latin America. The company is excited to do business there, and I’m excited to be a part of the conference team. To learn more about DistribuTECH Brasil, visit http://distributechbrasil.com, or email me. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

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