Five Hydro Plants May be Built in Amazon

Brazil and Peru are considering five new hydroelectric power generation plants with an investment outlay of more than $15 billion that may eventually form part of a network of 15 plants in Peru's Amazonian region. 

Brazilian Energy Minister Edison Lobao told reporters the dams would mainly feed Brazil's burgeoning industry, but their output could also be exported to other countries. He said the dams could be up and running by 2015 and generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity, of which Peru would take 20 percent and export the rest to Brazil to join the country's expanding grid. 

The plans have raised environmentalist concerns that large tracts of the Peruvian Amazon region may be ruined as the builders move in. 

"We need to have energy, to ensure Brazil's energy security," Lobao said. "Whatever exceeds Peruvian needs will be exported to Brazil, which may re-ship the energy to other neighboring countries." 

However, Brazil sees itself as the main consumer and is preparing to invest heavily in the project. Last spring Lobao said Brazil needs to boost its generating capacity by 50 percent in 10 years to 150,000 megawatts. However, industry analysts said the projections could change in response to the pace of industrialization and urban regeneration in the poorer areas of Brazil. 

The jointly operated Itaipu hydroelectric power generation complex on the Brazil-Paraguay border has brought Paraguay a windfall of $300 million a year in tariffs after Brazil agreed to give Paraguay a fair price for nearly 90 percent of the electricity generated at the plant and exported to Brazil. (HydroWorld 5/22/07) It was a welcome cash boost for a nation of just over 6 million people, 60 percent of whom live on or below the poverty line.

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