The look of surprise on the part of the government’s economic team in recent days, especially Minister Bento Albuquerque (Mines and Energy) and Paulo Guedes (Economy), contrasts with the denial stance of recent months in light of the various warnings that the The country is experiencing the imminence of an energy collapse with the worst water crisis in the last 91 years. The hydroelectric reservoirs in the Southeast and Midwest with only 15.4% of their capacity, a volume lower than that registered in the 2001 crisis, will further aggravate the economic scenario. In addition to increasing the energy bill, which will have an average readjustment of 6.78% this month, the lack of planning adds to the productive sector the threat of compulsory rationing. And even though Albuquerque publicly outlined some signs that the problem was serious, an order from the highest command room in the Republic called for communication and publicity on the subject to be put off after Tuesday (September 7) — when the demonstrations for and against Bolsonaro will take place.
The minister of Mines and Energy had only a few pathetic speeches on a topic that, with the technology we have today, could have been foreseen and mitigated over the past few months. According to Albuquerque, the hydro-energy condition worsened because “the rainy season in the southern region was worse than expected,” he said, almost embarrassed, on national television. To face the problem when it has already multiplied — a common practice of this government — the “water scarcity tariff flag” was created by the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), which increases by 49.63% (to R$ 14.20) the additional amount for every 100 kW/h consumed. At the end of June, the regulatory agency had already readjusted the red tariff flag level 2 (from R$ 6.24 to R$ 9.49 for every 100 kW/h consumed), an increase of 52%. The new classification is expected to remain in effect until April 30, 2022.
INSECURITY The general director of Aneel, André Pepitone, said that the agency’s current methodology for calculating the value of tariffs does not capture the water crisis, so there was an urgent need to adopt the new banner. “We have an additional cost of R$8.6 billion that is not foreseen in Aneel’s methodology,” he said. For economist André Aragão, the decision reveals the seriousness of the energy insecurity, and how it can end. “We’ll probably go through rationing.” The possibility became more evident when Vice President Hamilton Mourão treated the issue as something with great chances of happening in the near future.
Even if the government pretends to have been taken “by surprise” it will not be for lack of warning that Brazil will be in the dark. In May, the president of the Forum of Associations in the Electricity Sector, Mário Menel, stated that there would be a high cost to maintain the level of energy generation with the activation of thermoelectric plants and with imports from neighboring countries. From January to August, it cost R$13 billion. That same month, executive Adriano Pires, from the Brazilian Infrastructure Center, said that the government should have already created ways to reduce consumption, applying the red flag and the readjustment in the free energy market. “The matrix is very hostage to the climate, in part due to a lack of planning.”
DAMAGE The risk of blackout makes up a perfect storm. The economy is still trying to recover from the fall of 2020 with the pandemic, but all it achieved in the second quarter was to see GDP shrink 0.1%, compared to the same period in 2020, according to the IBGE. The forecast of 5% growth this year has become an even more distant dream, mainly because inflation of 8.99% in 12 months erodes family income and prevents the resumption of consumption. But, following the government’s primer, it is only possible to make a fuss after the 7 September demonstrations. Before that, everything is fine.