Brazil is driving the Latin American smart grid agenda. Will it leapfrog the U.S.?

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Editor's note: Michael Wiebe is a consummate smart grid insider. He runs a consulting firm that has supported over $7 billion and 55 million devices in successful smart grid projects in the U.S. and seven other countries since 1996. He is currently supporting four projects. One is integrating large-scale variable energy resources into the grid. Another is pursuing real time Volt/VAR optimization and load control for peak load control. Others deal with traditional AMI and distribution automation.  Michael was one of the sector's early pioneers. So when I heard he was just back from Latin American, I asked him to share his insights on the progress of that region. – Jesse Berst

 

By Michael Wiebe

 

On March 22-23, 2012 top Latin American government officials, utility executives and prominent members of the vendor community gathered in Rio de Janeiro to participate in the Utilities Telecom Council’s (UTC) inaugural America Latina Summit on Smart Grid.  The Summit also served as a test bed for determining whether UTC would add a Latin America office to those already established in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

 

Brazil at the forefront

“Brazil is at the Latin American forefront pursuing grid modernization for its electric utilities,” notes Connie Durcsak, UTC’s President and CEO.  “Given our extensive advocacy efforts concerning utility information and communications technology interests, UTC was invited by our Latin America members to host a Summit to explore the policy, market and technology imperatives specific to this region.” 

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Brazil already has clean and renewable energy covered -- 77% of its energy is supplied by hydro-electric resources.  Hence, Brazil’s policy focus is not on integrating renewable energy sources into the grid. Rather, its challenge centers on lowered distribution tariffs, universalization, improved power quality and loss reduction.

Brazil's Smart Grid Market Will Reach $36.6 Billion by 2022

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Smart grid investments in Brazil will reach $36.6 billion by 2022, according to a new study released today by Northeast Group, LLC. Utilities in Brazil will use the smart grid investments to help reduce electricity theft, improve the reliability of electric infrastructure, offer new pricing plans for customers and enable economic growth.

"Brazil's rapidly growing economy is straining the existing electric infrastructure and smart grid investments will be critical to address the many challenges facing the sector. Brazil, with the fifth largest population in the world, is eager to upgrade its infrastructure in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics when it will be on the world stage," according to Northeast Group.

"A very significant problem in Brazil is the high rate of electricity theft. This is both a public safety issue and also unfairly requires paying customers to subsidize those stealing power. Smart meters are very effective tools in helping reduce electricity theft," according to Northeast Group.

Smart metering - or advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) - will be the smart grid program leading the way in Brazil. The centerpiece of Brazil's smart grid plans is a target set by ANEEL, the Brazilian electricity regulator, to deploy 63 million AMI meters by 2021. Detailed regulations are expected within the next year and these will drive large-scale AMI deployments across the country. In addition, distribution automation, home energy management and other smart grid technologies are expected to grow in Brazil over the coming decade.

"Establishing the regulatory framework will be the catalyst for large-scale AMI deployments," according to Northeast Group. "But even in advance of these regulations, Brazilian utilities have been very active in piloting AMI. Almost all of the utilities have piloted AMI in some form and five of the largest utility groups with non-technical losses above 14% found that AMI deployments can bring immediate benefits by reducing theft. Several Brazilian utilities are even already experimenting with full-scale 'smart city' concepts that leverage a number of smart grid applications, such as distributed renewable generation and sophisticated home area networks."

The study - Brazil Smart Grid: Market Forecast (2012-2022) - forecasts 14 segments of the smart grid market in Brazil. These include market values for AMI segments (meter hardware, communications, IT, professional services and installation costs); distribution automation segments (substation automation; fault detection, isolation and restoration (FDIR); volt/VAR optimization (VVO); and grid monitoring and control); wide area measurement (synchrophasors), and home energy management segments (home area networks, electric vehicle supply equipment and smart solar inverters) through 2022. The study also provides a detailed overview of the electricity industry structure in Brazil. It profiles the 12 consortia controlling 33 of the largest distribution utilities that make up 90% of the market. A smart grid vendor analysis in the report profiles those firms positioning themselves to win large smart grid contracts, including domestic Brazilian firms poised to partner with international smart grid vendors.

The study is 128 pages long and includes over 65 charts, tables and graphics. Primary research was completed on the ground in Brazil and secondary research used English and Portuguese sources. To order a copy of the study, please visit www.northeast-group.comor email Ben Gardner at: ben.gardner@northeast-group.com

ABOUT: Northeast Group, LLC is a Washington, DC-based smart grid market intelligence firm. Our research is focused on the smart grid opportunity in emerging market countries.

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