Hydropower Possibilities in Latin America

Currently in Brazil, there are many methods being used to generate electricity, but there is one that stands out. Hydropower makes up 75% of Brazil’s electricity. Brazil isn’t the only country utilizing hydropower though. It makes up 65% of power produced in all of Latin America. The Itaipu Dam between Brazil and Paraguay is the second largest dam in the world and produces 14,000 MW annually. It has been providing clean, reliable energy since 1984. The great thing about Latin America, specifically Venezuela, Brazil and Peru, is the abundance of possible hydropower plant locations. Many are being used right now. There are pockets, or sectors, of cities within Venezuela, Brazil and Peru, that are using hydropower to meet over 70% of all electricity needs. Europe and Australia are rising fast on the renewable energy front.

Brazil is home to the second largest dam in the world, the Itaipu Dam (Dam). There are many other dams under construction right now as Brazil has instituted policies to increase the hydropower production. A new dam will be completed in 2016 on the Xingu River in Brazil called the Belo Monte Dam. This dam is projected to produce 14,000 MW annually, which would make it the third largest dam in the world. Brazil would be home to two hydroelectric power plants that generate 14GW each. The Belo Monte Dam is only projected to cost a mere $13 billion which is a significant decrease in cost from the previous price of $18 billion to build the Itaipu Dam. (US Energy)

Peru is currently not leading in the hydropower field but they have big plans for new hydropower plants to be constructed on various rivers stemming off of the Amazon. The Amazon has a very large amount of power and splits off into many many rivers along the way. The Belo Monte Dam is being built on an offshoot river of the Amazon just East of Peru in Brazil. The Peruvian government has plans to increase energy production and increase energy sales to Brazil. If Peru puts down the infrastructure for the dams, then the investors from Brazil will come and bring the country out of their “electricity funk”. More infrastructure means more investors, which means more money (Peru Opportunities).

Venezuela is one of the larger hydropower producers in Latin America, with the Guri plant located on the Caroni River. This plant produces 8,900 MW of power annually and provides most of the energy needed to run the country. Guri is the fourth largest hydropower plant in the world. The Venezuelan government is very happy with the energy produced from Guri but are constantly upgrading the equipment to maximize energy output. Venezuela has projections putting them at 16,000 MW in the near future(World Energy Council).

As far as new dam construction, China is leading with eight new dams on the horizon while Brazil, which has the second most dams being built, only has three coming up soon. Expansion in the hydropower field is key. Many countries around the globe are instituting new hydropower policies to increase the amount of clean, renewable energy. Hydropower is extremely efficient and inexpensive. “Modern hydro turbines can convert as much as 90% of the available energy into electricity. The best fossil fuel plants are only about 50% efficient” (Hydroelectric Power).

With Latin America increasing in hydropower plants, jobs are being created. 1.4 million jobs are projected to be available in Latin American countries by 2025. The population of the world is getting larger and it cannot hurt to add 1.4 million available jobs into the mix. These are jobs keeping the world sustainable. Hydropower does more than just offer a renewable resource; it offers a clean, easily accessible, reliable energy source. There are other benefits to hydropower plants that often go overlooked. These plants build up reservoirs and these reservoirs are often used to provide drinking water for nearby towns. The rain water will replenish the reservoir so the cycle can continue.

The policy adding more hydropower into the grid was initially introduced because of the large amounts of quality rivers in Latin America. Although Latin America is currently leading the hydropower field, “It has feasible hydropower potential of about 4.5 times that” (A Review). Peru, Venezuela and Brazil are all included in this statistic. These main three countries were the leaders in hydropower and are the three countries with the most ideal placements for hydropower plants.

Latin America, making over 75% of its power by hydroelectricity, is leading in the shear percentage of hydroelectricity made vs. energy used. Brazil is the number one producer of hydroelectric power in Latin America but it is also the largest consumer. Latin America’s great geography gives them the ability to put hydropower plants on many different rivers. The expansion of hydropower in Latin America will not only benefit Latin America but rather the whole world.

Renewable energy is important. Greenhouse gas emissions are destroying the Earth’s atmosphere, specifically the ozone layer in the stratosphere. Hydropower emits zero greenhouse gasses and costs next to nothing to run compared to the yield. Latin America increasing its hydropower is helping the planet survive. These policies will slowly make their way into America and America will eventually build more dams but as of right now, Europe and Australia are the next big hydropower users.

Works Cited

“Dam! Check out These Awesome Hydro Power Plants.” CNBC. N.p., 13 Apr. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. http://www.cnbc.com/id/102581517

“U.S. Energy Information Administration — EIA — Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Hydropower Supplies More than Three-quarters of Brazil’s Electric Power. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=16731

“Peru Opportunities and Challenges of Small Hydropower Development. ESMAP Formal Report.” ESMAP. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. https://www.esmap.org/node/1238

“World Energy Council.” Venezuela. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. http://www.worldenergy.org/data/resources/country/venezuela/hydropower

“Hydroelectric Power.” Renewable Energy, , Benefits and Cons of Hydro Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. http://www.altenergy.org/renewables/hydroelectric.html

“A Review of the Hot Hydro Market in Latin America.” Renewable Energy World. N.p., 04 Jan. 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2015. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/01/a-review-of-the-hot-hydro-market-in-latin-america

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