Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Hydropower Country Notes
Hydroelectric power is one of Brazil's principal energy assets: the republic has by far the largest hydropower resources on the continent. The Brazilian WEC Member Committee reports that gross theoretical capability exceeds 3 000 TWh/yr, with an economically exploitable capability of over 800 TWh/yr, of which over 40% has been harnessed so far. Hydro output in 2005 was 337 TWh, which accounted for 84% of Brazil's electricity generation.
Hydro generating capacity more than doubled between 1980 and 1999, partly through gradual commissioning of the huge Itaipú scheme (total capacity
12 600 MW), which came into operation between 1984 and 1991. Brazil shares Itaipú's output with its neighbour Paraguay, which sells back to Brazil the surplus power remaining after its own electricity needs have been satisfied.
At the end of 2005, Brazil had 5 GW of hydro capacity under construction, including a major (4 125 MW) extension of capacity at Tucuruí and two additional 700 MW units at Itaipú. Nearly 37 GW of further hydro capacity is planned for future development. The 19th 700 MW unit entered commercial operation at Itaipú in September 2006, bringing its total capacity up to 13 300 MW.
Within the overall picture outlined above, small-scale hydro (since 1998, defined in Brazil as plants with a capacity of < 30 MW) has an economically exploitable capability of about 17 TWh/yr, 39% of which had been exploited by capacity installed as at end-2005. The 1 429 MW of small-scale hydro currently in place will be augmented by 1 800 MW additional capacity which is under construction or planned. The legislation in force anticipates the granting of incentives for small hydro-electric stations (systems under 30 MW), in order to increase competition in the Brazilian electricity market.