I just returned from DistribuTECH Brasil. It was the first time PennWell has taken DistribuTECH outside the U.S. I’ve written about Brazil and this new event before, including how the country must prepare for the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 Olympic Games and how improving its electricity infrastructure is fundamental in that preparation. I learned during the past week, however, that preparing for the world stage is only part of the reason Brazil must focus on its electricity infrastructure.
Brazil’s economy and middle class have grown significantly during the past decade. Electricity has been and will continue to be an enabler of that growth. Brazil generates about 85 percent of its electricity from hydropower and soon will be home to the largest dam in the world, Belo Monte, which when completed will provide 11,000 MW of electricity. Long-distance transmission lines will carry the electricity from the northern part of the country to the cities and load centers further south. Nelson Hubner, general director of Regulatory Agency for Electric Energy (ANEEL), told DistribuTECH Brasil’s mega-session audience of about 110 people that Brazil has done a good job of generating clean electricity and automating its transmission system, but its distribution network has many problems. He said many of Brazil’s residential, business and industrial customers experience more than 20 hours of electricity interruptions per year. In northern Brazil, he said that number is closer to 100 hours and in a few places in the North, electricity service can be interrupted for more than a month at a time. Hubner said Brazil must automate and leave this era of poor performance behind. He said smart meters are the first step. Hubner said smart meters should be used to alert the utility of customer outages as well as to help Brazil’s electricity providers deal with another major problem—nontechnical losses, or energy theft.
Smart metering is just one of many technologies being introduced and used in Brazil. The topics discussed during DistribuTECH Brasil’s conference sessions, as well as among colleagues on the exhibit floor and during networking events were similar to those discussed at DistribuTECH in the U.S. Attendees at both events are focused on providing more reliable, sustainable and efficient electricity with new grid technologies. Brazil’s electricity sector provides a market in which companies from around the world can participate. As PennWell, DistribuTECH’s staff and I continue our work on DistribuTECH Brasil, it will be interesting to see how the market develops and which companies will be a part of that development. I will keep you posted.
Editor in chief