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Adding a Continental Perspective to the Development of Hydro

Power in the Amazon Region


Alan Douglas Poole
April 26, 2005

Brazil is endowed with abundant hydropower potential and hydroelectric plants have been the
dominant source of electricity supply since the beginning of the electricity industry in the country,
providing an increasing share of generation until the late 1990s.

With the reforms and substantial privatization of the power sector begun in 1995, hydroelectric
development slowed down. Generation with natural gas became the new focus of policy and business
interest. At the same time, public sector planning never abandoned hydro as the predominant
medium and long term source of expansion. Successive ten-year plans at the time treated natural gas
generation as a short-term stop-gap.1 However, by this time the public sector plans were merely
“indicative”, rather than “determinative”. For various important agents in the market, continued large
increases in generation from natural gas were seen as the preferred solution. There was a certain
“schizophrenia” of policy.

A key characteristic of the Lula Administration’s energy policy is to make the development of Brazil’s
remaining hydro potential an explicit priority and to try to design a process to make this viable in
practice. It is reflected in various actions taken, such as strengthening centralized planning and the
creation of a central “pool” for commercializing generation.

Since the Amazon region has most of the remaining hydro potential that is not already operating or
under construction, the question of large new dams there is beginning to return to prominence, after
being in the background of energy policy for more than a decade.

The government has announced its intention to implement the first phase of the Belo Monte dam
(5681 MW, with a possible expansion of 5000 MW in a second phase) on the lower Xingú river and
two dams on the Madeira river near Porto Velho - Santo Antônio (3580 MW) and Jirau (3900 MW).
Both are essentially run-of-river plants, with small reservoirs in areas already transformed by more
than 30 years of migrations. Detailed project definition has been underway for some time and a
decision as to which of these two projects will begin first will be taken soon.

These announced “mega-projects” have several other things in common. They are on southern
tributaries of the Amazon and have very large river flows with large seasonal variations. The sites are
also at the transition from the sedimentary basins of the Amazon and its tributaries to the “crystalline”
geological formations of central Brazil. This geologic transition provides opportunities for dams to
provide “head” for the turbines. Together with a third site on the Tapajós river (São Luís de Tapajós,
of approximately 9000 MW), they have long been recognized as the remaining sites with by far the
largest potential in the Amazon region.

However, it should be remembered that the Madeira Complex and Belo Monte together represent only
a small share – about 15% at most - of the hydro potential estimated for the region (which excludes
the Tocantins/Araguaia basin). The emphasis of discussion on two relatively attractive mega-projects
may create a false impression regarding the characteristics of most of the remaining potential in the
Amazon region. What does the rest of the theoretical potential look like? Very little has been
published.

The author is most familiar with the Belo Monte project and the Xingú river basin – which is also the
Amazonian basin which has been most studied. I will focus my comments on this basin. The
characteristics of the Xingú cannot be extrapolated to the other basins. However, it is a good example

1 See for example the plans prepared by the GCPS/Eletrobrás: Plano Decenal de Expansão 1999-2008 (1999) and Plano
Decenal de Expansão 2000-2009 (2000).
to raise basic issues about the strategy to provide “firm energy” from a natural resource which varies
enormously over time.

Belo Monte and the development of the Xingú River


Planning of the Belo Monte project began in the late 1970s. In 1980 a detailed inventory of the Xingú
basin was published. At that time the dam was called “Kararaô” and was conceived as being the
second dam of a complex to be built above and below the city of Altamira a regional center along the
Transamazon highway. The first dam to be built was called Babaquara, whose site is located
upstream of Altamira. It’s function, besides generating power, was to provide regulation of the river for
the Kararaô dam, whose generating capacity was to be roughly double that of Babaquara.

The two dams were denominated the “Altamira complex”. Major economies in construction costs were
foreseen in building the two dams in a coordinated way. For example, as civil construction labor and
equipment needs passed their peak for the first dam they would be transferred to starting the second
dam.

As planning evolved during the 1980s and more attention was given both to environmental issues and
problems of financing, Kararaô became the first project in the construction sequence. Not only that,
Babaquara was put firmly “off-stage”. There was no more mention of the “Altamira complex”. In 1986
a strategic plan for the power sector was published – the Plano 2010. The Kararaô dam was to be the
first in a sequence of projects to develop Amazonian hydro on a massive scale (the equivalent of an
Itaipú every 2 years or less).

The proposal provoked an intense reaction among the indigenous groups in the effected area and in
the environmental community – both in Brazil and internationally. Indeed, this reaction consolidated
Brazil’s still very incipient environmental movement. The emblematic moment came in a public
meeting in Altamira in 1989, when the Indian woman Tuíra dramatically and symbolically touched both
cheeks of a Director of Eletronorte with a machete. Brazil’s continued economic stagnation soon
removed any urgency for such a large project, as well as the financial capacity to implement it. The
subject receded to the background.

After the public relations disaster of Kararaô in 1989, the project was given a new name - Belo Monte.
Not only that, by 1994 a new configuration of the dam began to be conceived which dramatically
reduced the area of the reservoir from 1160 km2 to ~500 km2, of which about 2/3 is the bed of the
river. By the parameter of kW/hectare of reservoir it would be one of the most attractive large dams
ever built in Brazil. It is also expected that the cost of delivered power will be relatively low (lower than
most hydro capacity being constructed today) despite the long distance to the main load centers –
2400-2600 km. If there is any site in the Amazon region worth developing, this is certainly one of them.

However, the project presents serious challenges for the system. Belo Monte is a run-of-river plant
and the Xingú river’s flow varies enormously, more than the rivers in the Southern, Southeastern and
Northeastern regions of Brazil (Figure 1).

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Figure 1: Seasonality of Flows of Some Major Brazilian Rivers

300%

250%
% Long Term Average Flow

200%

Paraná (Itaipú)
São Francisco (Sobradinho)
150%
Tocantins (Tucuruí)
Xingú (Belo Monte)

100%

50%

0%
Jan Feb Mar Abr Mai Jun Jul Ago Set Out Nov Dez
Month

Those planning the development of the basin’s potential have long been aware of this problem.
Indeed, as already observed, the original proposal in the 1980s was to first build a dam upstream with
huge storage capacity - (Babaquara, renamed Altamira). Later other dams would be constructed
upstream on the Xingú to provide additional storage. Together, they would provide >180 billion cubic
meters of useful storage volume – see Table 1.

Table 1: Characteristics of Planned Hydro Plants on the Xingú River

Hydro Plant Capacity Reservoir Area & Ratios Useful Volume Approx Head
(MW) (km2) (kW / ha) (106 m3 / km2) (billion m3) (m)
Belo Monte (Kararaô) 10681 500 1 213,6 2,40 1.2 90
Altamira (Babaquara) 5750 2 6140 9,4 15,78 97.0 68
Ipixuna 1900 3270 5,8 6,85 22.4 43
Kokraimoro 1490 1770 8,4 10,40 18.4 49
Jarina 620 1900 3,3 6,53 12.4 24
Iriri 770 4060 1,9 7,64 31.0 40
Total Xingu River 21,530 18,300 11,8 9,97 182.4 xxxx
Total w/o Belo Monte 10,530 17,800 5,9 10,18 181,2 xxxx
Notes: Composite based on the 1980 inventory of the Xingú River2, the Plano 2015 (Eletrobrás, 1993; volume 2) and more
recent information on Belo Monte3. Except for Belo Monte these are all very preliminary estimates, subject to change.
1 The Belo Monte reservoir was originally 1160 km2 then reduced in a new configuration prepared in 1994. I have taken
upper value of range of 440-500 km2 cited in literature. 2 Another value cited for Babaquara is 6590 MW.

2 CNEC (Consórcio Nacional de Engenheiros Consultores); Inventários Hidrelétricos: Bacia do Rio Xingú; for Eletronorte,
1980.
3 O. Seva; Vale do Xingu; chapter 2; University of Campinas; May, 2004.

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To give an idea of what this volume of storage represents, the useful storage capacity of all of Brazil’s
reservoirs today is 268 billion m3. The storage capacity of all the reservoirs of generators in the
Southeast/Midwest region is 178 billion m3. Two thirds of the existing storage capacity would be
required for the equivalent of only 1/4 of the existing hydro capacity, and even less of the firm energy
currently supplied.

Looking from another angle, Table 2 summarizes information about the largest existing storage
reservoirs in Brazil with more than 10 billion m3 of useful capacity – of which there are only eight. The
upstream reservoirs on the Xingú would add five. Four of the seven largest reservoirs (in terms of
useful storage volume) would be on the Xingú.

Table 2: Largest Existing Storage Reservoirs in Brazil


(More than 10 billion m3 of useful storage capacity)

Dam River/Basin Reservoir Storage Generation Reservoir Area


Area Ratios
(km2) (109 m3) (MW) (106 m3 / km2) (kW / ha)
1.Serra da Mesa Tocantins 1784 43,3 1275 24,27 7,15
2.Tucuruí (Phase I) Tocantins 2430 36,9 3890 15,19 16,01
1

3.Sobradinho São Francisco 4214 28,7 1050 6,81 2,49


4.Furnas Grande/Paraná 1440 17,2 1312 11,94 9,11
5.Três Marias São Francisco 1042 15,3 396 14,68 3,80
6.Emborcação Paranaíba/Paraná 455 13,1 1192 28,79 26,20
7.Itumbiara Paranaíba/Paraná 778 12,5 2280 16,07 29,31
8.Nova Ponte Araguari/Paraná 443 10,4 510 23,48 11,51
Total 12586 182,6 11905 14,51 9,46
Total w/o Sobradinho 8372 153,9 10855 18,38 12,97
Note: No other reservoirs have more than 6 billion m3 of useful storage capacity.
1 With the additions of Phase II (to be completed in 2006) Tucuruí will reach 8370 MW.

Unlike most existing storage reservoirs, which have sites with topography favoring this function, the
upstream storage plants on the Xingú would all be “artificial” at sites with relatively flat topography. In
the course of almost 1200 km the river falls only 185 m to the level of the reservoir of Belo Monte. In
addition to the main dams, extensive dikes would be required.

As illustrated in Figure 2, the Xingú would become a series of lakes for 1300 km (plus more than 500
km on the Iriri river), covering both tropical forest and various indigenous reserves. Large areas
would be subject to seasonal drying and flooding – both ugly and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Water quality problems at each site are likely to be severe, with the decomposition of vast amounts of
organic matter. Substantial quantities of methane (a potent GHG gas) would be released. GHG
emissions from deforestation in the vicinity are also likely to result, based on past experience. The
dams upstream of Belo Monte are all very problematic, though some are clearly worse than others.
None are likely to be cheap.

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Figure 2: Map of the Proposed Reservoirs on the Xingú River
Source: Lobato, C.S. et alii; “A importância do zoneamento ecológico-econômico para o Estado do
Pará”, Pará Desenvolvimento, No. 23, pp 34-52
This reservoir lakes are highlighted in blue – the reservoir of Tucuruí is also highlighted in light blue.
The map refers to configurations in the late 1980s. The area of the reservoir of Kararâo (Belo Monte)
will be reduced by more than half.

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The current proposal of the government sidesteps these issues. Instead of the full 11,000 MW
traditionally projected, a Phase I of only 5681 MW is planned.4 In this reduced format, the load factor
is improved, however at the cost of losing a large amount of generation potential during the period of
high flow.

This pragmatic solution has in effect left the options open to be decided at a later date. While
intelligent from a planning and especially a political marketing perspective, it can also be said that it
represents a refinement of the strategy in the late 1980s to present Kararâo as an isolated dam when
in fact it was the first step in a strategy to massively develop the hydroelectric potential of the region.
This approach raises questions and could cause problems.

If Belo Monte were indeed to be left at 5681 MW, with no dams built upstream, it would imply that the
estimates of Amazonian potential that can be implemented must be drastically reduced. This outcome
seems unlikely. It is more probable that a vigorous effort will be made to build Phase II as part of an
as yet undisclosed plan of expansion. The problem would remain, how to deal with the variation of
river flow? The traditional logic for optimization of the large investment would create great pressure to
implement the upstream projects to regulate the river flow. Without the presentation of a convincing
alternative strategy, Belo Monte may well be seen again by many as a “Trojan horse” and be
considered not on its own merits but on what it may bring in its wake.

Is there another approach possible to address the challenge of the huge variation of flows of water on
the Xingú river? My proposal is to look at the classic alternative in hydroelectric planning to building
more storage capacity: seek to develop dam sites with complementary hydrology. Where might these
be?

Seeking complementary hydrology outside Brazil


There is a large undeveloped hydroelectric potential in the “northern tier” of South America –
Venezuela, the Guyanas and Colombia. This “northern tier” is also in the Northern Hemisphere, which
is a fundamental climatological divide, even quite close to the Equator. For this reason a strategy to
exploit hydrological complementation in the humid tropics could be called an “inter-hemispheric
interconnection”.

The rivers in the “northern tier” of South America have a very different hydrology than that of the
Xingú, Tapajós and Madeira – not to mention the basins already mostly developed in Brazil
(Tocantins, São Francisco, Paraná, etc). The difference in average seasonality of river flows is
illustrated in Figures 3 and 4. Figure 3 is a map of South America summarizing the seasons of
maximum flow and the % of river flow during the 3 months of maximum flow. Figure 4 shows
estimated average monthly flows for the “northern tier” and Peru (in the “western tier”) compared with
those of the Xingú.

Peak flows in the rivers of the “northern tier” are generally during July-November, the period of low
flows in both the Eastern Amazon and the river basins of Southeastern and Northeastern Brazil. As in
the rivers of the Brazilian Amazon, maximum flow is often concentrated in a short period.

In addition to complementary seasonal flows, there is also diversity in the variation of annual flow,
though this is harder to evaluate with the data available to the author. In the years of lowest flow on
the Xingú (below 80% of the average long term flow, roughly the 20% percentile) in the period 1931-
85), in only one year was the flow in the “northern tier” in the lowest 20% percentile for that region. In
all other years flow in the “northern tier” was near or above average, while the average flow on the
Xingú in these 12 driest years was 73% of normal

4 In this new configuration there are 11 turbines of 500 MW the main powerhouse. In the secondary powerhouse there are 7
turbines of 25.9 MW.

6
Figure 3: Three Month Periods of Maximum River Flow
And Their Share of Annual Runoff

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Figure 4: Examples of Hydrologic Diversity

300%

250%
Percent Average Long Term Flow

200%
Xingú (Belo Monte)
"Northern Tier"
Essequibo (Guyana)
150%
Magdalena (Colombia)
Orinoco
Peru
100%

50%

0%
Jan Feb Mar Abr Mai Jun Jul Ago Set Out Nov Dez
Month

The total hydro potential of the “northern tier” is large – perhaps roughly equivalent to Brazil’s hydro
potential, as shown in Table 3. The estimates are from OLADE and it is not explicitly clear that the
criteria are broadly the same (as they should be). However, even assuming the worst case that the
estimates for the “northern tier” are for “installed capacity” instead of “average output” (as they are for
Brazil) the future potential of the northern tier” is large and the share that has been developed,
especially outside Venezuela, is very small.

Table 3: Hydro Potential and Development – Brazil and Selected Regions of South America

Hydro Potential Installed Capacity (GW) Generation (GWh)


(GW-years) Total Hydro Total Hydro
Brazil 143,380 82,458 65,311 344,512 275,609

Guyana 7600 308 0.5 914 0


Venezuela 46,000 20,577 12,491 87,406 58,728
Colombia 93,085 13,788.5 9077.3 45,242 32,870
“Northern Tier” 146,685 34,674 21,569
Ecuador 21,760 3233.9 1486.5 11,884 7605
Peru 61,832 5935 3098.8 21,982 18,629
Bolivia 39,850 1273.3 456.6 4188 2244
“Western Tier” 123,442 5042

These characteristics of the “northern tier” – hydrology which complements that of Brazil and a large
undeveloped potential - makes a strategy of “inter-hemispheric interconnection” feasible in principle as
a strategy for the optimization of hydro development in the humid tropical regions of South America.

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This strategy opens the possibility for more development of hydro with less environmental impacts and
lower costs – on a continental scale.

If successful, it could also open the way for developing a regional strategy for the development of the
large hydro resources in the central Andean nations or “western tier” – Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia. As
can be seen in Table 3, the potential is almost as large as that in the “northern tier” and a much
smaller share has been developed. The proposed hydro complex on the Madeira river could serve as
the “anchor” on the Brazilian side for this interconnection and integration of development, just as the
Belo Monte project on the Xingú river would serve as the first Brazilian “anchor” for the interconnection
with the “northern tier”.

The hydrology of the “western tier” of the Amazon region is much less complementary to Brazil’s than
is that of the “northern tier”, but there is some diversity in seasonal flows. More important, there may
be sites with relatively low economic costs and environmental impacts which could only be viable if
developed in a regional context.

A problem for the development of larger hydro projects in countries with relatively small electricity
markets is how to absorb a large block of new capacity. Superior sites may not be developed for lack
of a market. By creating the necessary transmission infrastructure, it would be possible in principle to
select the best hydro projects in the continent and develop them on an integrated basis.

Outside the Amazon region, along the more developed southern borders of Brazil, a process of
integration and exchange has already begun – in addition to the existing or planned bi-national dams
on the frontier such Itaipú and Garabí. Though there have been difficulties with fulfillment of some
commitments, economically useful exchanges have been made too. The strategy for Amazonia
proposed here would complement and reinforce this on-going integration.

Begining the “inter-hemispheric interconnection”


A strategy to develop this regional potential would begin with a serious investment in bulk transmission
between operating hydro generating plants. The most obvious northern “anchor” for this
interconnection would be the complex of dams on the Caroni river in Venezuela (Table 4). The exiting
capacity of the complex is about 14 GW. Of this, the Guri dam accounts for about 8,9 GW. Another 9-
10 GW of expansion is planned. Essentially all of Venezuela’s hydro production is on this river.

Table 4: Installed and Potential Capacity on the Caroni River in Venezuela

Hydro Plant Status Capacity Firm Energy Turbines Head


(MW) (GWh) (m)
Lower Caroni 16,136 74,170
Macagua I Operating 360 2952 6 ~27
Macagua II-III Operating 2570 9,048 14 ~27
Gurí (Raul Leoni) Operating 8,850 1 39,400 20 143
Caruachí Operating 2196 11,350 12 36
Tocoma Detailed project 2160 10,520 12 36
Upper Caroni 7,250 n/a
Tayucay Pre-feasibility 2450 2 7 85
Aripichí Pre-feasibility 1200 3 4 90
Eutobarima Pre-feasibility 2400 4 6 315
Salto Auraima Pre-feasibility 1200 5 6 N/a
Operating 13,976 63,650
Planned New Capacity 9,410 n/a
Source: EDELCA Annual Report for 2003. Notes: 1 Reduced from 10,000 MW 2 Reduced from 3100 MW. 3 Reduced
from 1300 MW. 4 Reduced from 2900 MW. 5 Reduced from 1800 MW

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The “southern anchor” would be Belo Monte, presumably with a capacity closer to the total 11,000
MW originally planned than the 5681 MW of Phase I. Tucuruí could also be part of the “southern
anchor”, and would be well prepared for this role with the completion of the “super-turbinization”
expected in 2006. Later, the proposed dam on the Tapajós at São Luís de Tapajós (~9000 MW) could
be added to the “southern anchor”. The distance of the interconnection for this dam would be about
300 km less than for Belo Monte.

The distance between Guri and Belo Monte would be about 3000 km, if one followed the route of
existing highways (2500 km) and or transmission lines (“as the bird flies” would be somewhat
shorter).5 Although long, this interconnection is perfectly feasible in technical terms, including the
crossing of the Amazon river. The distance is comparable to the distance from Belo Monte or the
Porto Velho complex on the Madeira to the main load centers in Southeastern Brazil, roughly 2500
km.

The Guri dam is on the lower Caroni river and is rather distant from the frontier with Brazil, about 450
km. Four dams are planned upstream. Of these, two – Aripichí and Eutobarima – are only 50-75 km
from the frontier. If the “northern anchor” were in their proximity the total distance to Belo Monte would
decrease to about 2600 km. The two dams have a potential capacity of between 3600 and 4200 MW.
Of course, there would have to be reinforcement of the transmission system within the Caroni
complex, but the marginal cost of the reinforcement would be less than an entirely new line and right
of way.

Guri already supplies Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima (a distance of 650-700 km). Before the option
for natural gas, it was considered a serious alternative to supply Manaus, at a distance of about 1450
km if it were to follow the highway from Boa Vista.

The main function of this interconnection would be to transfer energy (kWh) from one system to
another, the direction of the flow depending on the season. For example, from January to May Brazil
would typically export power to Venezuela; from June to November the flow would reverse. The
direction of the flow in December would depend on who had the drier year. The interconnection’s
contribution to capacity (kW) would be secondary – an outage should not compromise the ability to
meet peak demand in each country’s system.

Since much of the output of Belo Monte during the season of high flow would not be sent to the load
centers of SE and NE Brazil the capacity of the transmission lines to these centers might be reduced
somewhat – with savings in investment (I am referring here to the case of Belo Monte having a
capacity near the 11000 MW originally planned). At the same time, the availability of power from the
Caroni basin during the season of low flow would mean that the transmission capacity that is built to
transmit Belo Monte’s output to the SE and NE markets would have a higher load factor. The
interconnection with the Caroni “modulates” the use of the transmission system, flattening the curve.
The modulation of seasonal output should also facilitate the commercialization of Belo Monte’s power.
These are economic benefits which could be substantial and should be taken into account when
evaluating the economics of the interconnection with Venezuela.

Once operations were consolidated with Venezuela, the next logical steps would be to interconnect
with Colombia and the Guyanas – the former probably from Guri, the latter perhaps from Boa Vista.
The Guyanas are much closer, which makes them the most interesting medium term candidates.
However, Colombia´s potential is much larger. As the interconnection expands in time the relative
amounts of energy transported in each direction may also change.

5 Segments of the route are estimated to be: Guri to border ~450 km; border to Boa Vista ~215 km; Boa Vista to Manaus
~765 km; Manaus to Santarem ~870 km; Santarem to Belo Monte ~700 km. About 500 km of the distance between Manaus
and Santarem does not follow an existing road.

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Follow-up
In the author’s view, a successful strategy to develop the viable hydroelectric potential of the Brazilian
Amazon must modify the planning paradigm than has been used in the past. Large reservoirs for
multi-year regulation of river flows, a traditional aspect of Brazil`s hydro development, seem less cost-
effective in Amazonia than they have been in other regions. While we have looked in detail only at the
Xingú basin, and all river basins are different, the problem does not seem to be restricted to the Xingú.
An interesting calculation in the Plano 2010 – never since published in updated form – is that on
average each MW of firm power would require inundating an area 3.5 times larger than the average of
the rest of Brazil.6 This area would be in humid forest biomes.

In this context greater priority should be given to investments that exploit possibilities to complement
natural river flows. Various approaches are possible. The proposal outlined here is one important
example of a “complementation strategy” which exploits the diversity of natural flows in different
basins.

This proposal is very preliminary. However, the analysis to assess whether it is worth pursuing further
need be neither expensive nor time consuming. This “pre-feasibility” analysis should address points
such as:
• Estimate the investment and losses of the interconnection between the two anchors.
• Create a database on the hydrology of the main basins (and potential sites) in the “northern
tier” that is as consistent as possible with data for the Brazilian inventory.
• Analyze the inventory of potential sites in the “northern tier” and the Brazilian Amazon,
including: generating capacity, reservoir area and useful storage capacity; head; average
energy; estimated cost key environmental/social concerns.
• Perform at least simplified energy modeling to simulate impacts on the systems of the
countries involved.
It is probable that information on many sites is either incomplete or subject to large uncertainty.
However, the purpose of the analysis would only be to determine whether this approach is truly
promising – not yet to determine that it be implemented.

Fortunately there is time available before major decisions need be made and to allow for more
detailed studies to be performed. There is probably no need to alter the design of Phase I of Belo
Monte. However, the timing and capacity of Phase II (including transmission to SE and NE Brazil)
may well be influenced. The biggest near term impact in Brazil may be on the presentation of the
project and perceptions regarding the upstream development of the Xingú river.

On the Venezuelan side, a key issue to address is the timing and capacity of the four dams planned
on the middle and upper Caroni river basin. From Table 3 it can be seen that there may be some
uncertainty regarding the configuration of these dams. Their planned capacity, as estimated in 2003
was 9410 MW. This is 1850 MW less than the previous estimate. The reasons for this change are
obscure, but may be related to the ability of the Venezuelan market to absorb the peak output during
the rainy season – why install turbines you can’t use? It is relevant to remember that essentially all of
Venezuela’s hydro capacity is on the same river, so there is almost no “hydrological diversity” in that
country’s system. Guri itself has been derated by 1150 MW. With the market opened by the
interconnection to Brazil’s national grid, investments in greater turbine capacity may well be justified.

The negotiation of such a structurally significant project between various countries will be a complex
process. Political instability and tensions between countries (for example, Venezuela with Colombia
and Guyana) make negotiations and planning more difficult. However, this kind of structural project
which can bring long-term benefits to all parties is the type of initiative that can help to overcome these

6 The calculation is based on the inventory available at that time (1985) and assumes that all inventoried potential within a
certain economic threshold were developed. The 36.2 firm GWs from Amazonia (including the Araguia/Tocantins) would
inundate 10 million hectares (100,000 km2), while the 53.6 firm GWs from other regions would inundate a total of 4.2 million
hectares. See the tables on pages 145 and 150 of the Plano 2010.

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differences and increase the economic and political ties between the countries of the Amazon basin,
including Brazil, a frequently stated goal of governments in the region.

With or without a strategy of broader regional interconnection and hydro development, the viable
potential within Brazil’s Amazon region is probably substantially smaller than has been generally
divulged - though the viable potential is probably larger with regional interconnection. Being more
realistic about its own Amazonian potential, Brazil can help its neighbors develop theirs’. This would
open the way for projects that have lower economic and environmental costs than, say, the projected
dams of the middle Xingú and their like in the Brazilian Amazon. Of course, this needs to be confirmed
by deeper studies, but it is time to change the geographic scope of the planning of hydroelectric
expansion in the humid tropics of South America.

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