Responsible for the emission of about 14 million tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, the power utilities will have to offset the environmental cost of electricity generation to get their operating licenses. That includes planting thousands of trees.
The measure will be applied to the concession of new licenses and the renewal of existing licenses.
Environment Minister Carlos Minc said the new requirements are part of the necessary measures for the fulfilment of the goals of Brazil's National Climate Change Plan.
"It must be remembered that the Environment Ministry is not creating a new cost for the plants. This cost has always existed, but it now must be paid by all society," he said.
The coal-fired Jorge Lacerda B power plant located in the southern state of Santa Catarina (Photo courtesy Tractebel Energia)
The mitigation, a measure to diminish the environmental impacts of power generation, has not in the past been part of the requirements of the environmental authorities, which regulated only pollutant gases. Carbon dioxide is not pollutant, said Minc, but it does contribute to the heating of the planet.
Those power plants that already work with the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism by buying carbon credits can adopt the new rule when their emissions reach accountable levels. The others can opt in to the new system.
The ministry's preliminary estimates show that a power plant with capacity to generate 100 MW/h, that operates during 25 percent of the year, will have to plant up to 600 trees.
These measures will have to offset a portion of the power plant's emissions, with the remainder covered by investment in clean energy such as wind power generation.
The National System Operator, responsible for the distribution of energy in the country, foresees the use of thermoelectricity as supplying power that complements that produced by Brazil's hydroelectric plants.
Coal-fired and oil-fired plants will be called upon to produce more power in the periods of drought, when the electricity generated by the less polluting hydroelectric plants diminishes, the System Operator said.
Between now and the year 2017, the Environmenet Minister projects that 82 new thermoelectric power plants will begin operation, raising greenhouse gas emissions an estimated 39 million tons.
By then, the ministry estimates that the power sector can be responsible for plantation of three million trees, which means that a good part of the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere will be absorbed by the trees, so it will not endanger the climate.
In addition to reforestation, the power plants will have to manage their newly planted forest areas according to sustainable criteria, caring for them for up to 10 years.
The new rule is published today in the Official Gazette.
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