Analysts: Brazil presidential race is solar opportunity

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The unexpected popularity of environmentalist and Brazilian presidential candidate, Marina Silva, could boost opportunities for solar in the Latin American country, analysts have said.

At the end of August, polls on Brazil’s presidential race predicted Socialist Party candidate, Marina Silva, had a narrow lead on the current president and Labour Party leader, Dilma Rousseff.

As a well known environmentalist and activist, Silva’s lead has placed solar further into the spotlight of already energy intense debates.

The former candidate for the Socialist Party and renewable energy advocate, Eduardo Campos died in a plane crash in August, leaving Silva to reluctantly take up the presidential race.

Silva was a former Green Party politician and environment minister for the Labour government, but quit over logging disputes. Silva is said to be drawing votes due to her anti-establishment appeal and Evangelical Christian status.

Frost & Sullivan innovation consultant, Pramod Dibble told PV Tech if Silva did win, “it will be a major boom for the solar industry given her rhetoric and policies”.

Executive director of the Brazilian solar association, ABSOLAR, Rodrigo Lopes Sauaia told PV Tech that “for PV and renewables, this election is an opportunity”.

Frederico Boschin, senior associate at Souza, Berger, Simões e Plastina, a specialist renewable energy lawyer firm, told PV Tech “some people think Silva is a radical in respects to environmental policy, but in fact she is a very firm politician, due to the fact that she gives a push towards renewable energy in Brazil”.

“Politicians are discussing strategic topics of our country; infrastructure and especially electricity is a strategic topic,” said Sauaia.

Due to higher electric prices from a recent drought preventing hydro generation, more expensive fossil fuels have been used in Brazil. “Prices have sky rocketed”, said Sauaia, with increases above 30% in electricity prices.           

As a result of the national election and the drought, and the quick deployment speed and predictable generation of solar, there is “an opportunity”, said Sauaia.

As the head of alternative energy at Brazil’s national development bank (BNDES), Antonio Tovar, and Mauricio Tolmasquim, the CEO of the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s research arm, EPE have recently backed solar, and the government has recently introduced local content funding and auctions for solar, PV is “being debated a lot by the presidential campaigns” said Sauaia.

“The topic of electricity and energy overall is a very intense debate topic for this election. As a consequence candidates are stating clearly a commitment to PV and renewables.” Sauaia said voters are more engaged in energy debates than previous elections.

“We are very much looking forward to auction and election; debates will give PV more visibility and increase awareness on population of solar as a real alternative.”

Even if Silva loses, Dibble said the presidential winner “will have to make concessions” on energy policies – for “the population not voting for them, for coalition building and bringing the country back together.”

Sauaia said ABSOLAR is expecting good solar development “irrespective of who is elected – the time for the technology is right in the country, costs are going down, electric prices are up, our solar resource is very good and there is interest”.

In the run up top the election, Sauaia said ABSOLAR was talking to potential candidates and discussing solar with the government, and has been “very welcome”.

The first round of the election vote is to be held on 5 October; according to the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinions and Statistics, Ibope, Silva has 29% voter support.

Rousseff has 34%, down from 38% in an August poll.

Running for the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, Aecio Neves has 19%, down from 23%.

Previously the presidential race was concentrated between Neves and Rousseff.

The late Campos offered Silva the vice president running mate position after Silva’s own party, the Sustainability Network, was dubiously refused legitimacy to run.

The poll showed that Silva could win by 9% in the second round of votes, the 26 October.

More than 2,500 people were surveyed from across Brazil between 23-26 August, with a margin error of 2% plus or minus.

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