To Save Amazonia, There is Another Way

Wind turbine
Wind turbine
Brazil's electric sector says the country's energy future hinges on damming the rivers of Amazonia. But the Amazon could be protected and people's energy needs met through aggressive investment in energy efficiency and true renewables such as biomass, small hydro, solar and wind.

A study by WWF-Brazil published in 2007 showed that by 2020 Brazil could cut the expected demand for electricity by 40% through investments in energy efficiency. The power saved would be equivalent to 60 Angra III nuclear plants or 14 Belo Monte hydroelectric plants. This would result in national electricity savings of up to R$33 billion (US$19 billion) by 2020, and reduce installed capacity by 78,000 MW.

WWF-Brazil's "PowerSwitch Scenario" would also generate 8 million new jobs through power generation from renewable sources such as biomass, wind, solar and small hydro, avoiding the need to build dams in the Amazon. These renewable sources could account for 20% of the total electricity generated in the country by 2020.

Other studies have shown that significant amounts of "new" energy could be harnessed by swapping electric showerheads for solar hot water systems, and by retrofitting older dams.

Brazil's public bank, BNDES, is expected to provide most of the financing for dams in the Amazon. In 2009, BNDES disbursed $8 billion to Brazil's electric sector. Only $9.5 million, or around 0.1% of total lending to the sector went to energy efficiency projects.

With the right incentives and policies from the government and the electric sector, Brazil has the potential to be a global leader in energy efficiency and renewables, creating millions of jobs, conserving the Amazon ecosystem, and drastically cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

More information: 

Read a summary of WWF Brazil's Sustainable Power Sector Vision 2020.