Thursday, February 9th, 2023 | Credits: Mongabay|
Brazil’s Amazon region is a major energy producer in the country. Hydropower plants in the Amazon produce 26 percent of Brazil’s energy, yet hundreds of thousands of families still lack access to electricity and are forced to rely on costly diesel generators.
The adoption of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, could significantly improve the quality of life in these communities while also creating new job opportunities. NGOs and governments have already implemented renewable energy plans with positive results, and it is agreed that any public policy aimed at providing electricity should also help generate new sources of income.
“Before solar power arrived, we had to pay dearly to get practically no electricity…Now we can use the freezer, the TV, even the internet…. All thanks to these solar panels.
Maria de Fátima Batista is an example of the positive impact that renewable energy can have. She grew up in a riverine community in the Amazon without electricity and had to study by candlelight.
Now 58 years old, Batista and the rest of the Terra Firme community have 24-hour electricity via solar panels and batteries, installed by a local firm. With access to clean energy, the community can use appliances such as refrigerators, televisions, and the internet, and the younger generation no longer has to study in the dark.
However, access to affordable, clean electricity is still a major challenge for many riverine and Indigenous communities living outside of major cities in the Amazon.
According to official data, 425,000 families are not connected to the national grid, a number that is likely even higher as the last census was conducted in 2010. The lack of access to the national grid has traditionally led these communities to adopt diesel generators, which are polluting and costly due to high fuel costs and markups on diesel.
Solar power has the potential to provide clean, constant, and affordable energy to communities in the Amazon, but there are still significant challenges to overcome. Terra Firme is home to 27 families who grow crops and produce flour to sell.
Each household has an autonomous solar energy unit consisting of solar panels and batteries, which is sturdy and low-impact, reducing deforestation risks.
Different federal administrations in Brazil have attempted to address the electricity access problem in the Amazon. In 2000, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso created the Luz no Campo program, which was later upgraded and expanded as Luz para Todos in 2003.
More recently, in 2020, the Bolsonaro administration launched Mais Luz para a Amazônia, a program specifically designed to deliver solar energy to families in the Amazon. To date, 8,828 units have been installed, benefiting around 35,000 people at a cost of $98 million. By 2030, the project is expected to reach over 850,000 people.
Energisa Group is responsible for delivering the solar kits and maintaining them in Rondônia. The families now pay a monthly electricity bill via an app provided by the company, Voltz, which also acts as a fintech bank offering traditional financial services.
The availability of electricity has opened up new business opportunities, and the introduction of energy storage via batteries charged during the day for use at night has further improved the quality of life in the community.
“From the moment you bring in electricity, other things come along,”
In conclusion, renewable energy has the potential to significantly improve the lives of communities in the Amazon and create new job opportunities. The Mais Luz para a Amazônia program is a step in the right direction, and with continued support and investment, communities in the Amazon can look forward to a brighter future.