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Today in Energy

September 7, 2021

Hydropower made up 66% of Brazil’s electricity generation in 2020

Graph by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), based on EIA’s International Energy Statistics and data from the International Energy Agency
Source: Graph by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), based on EIA’s International Energy Statistics and data from the International Energy Agency

Brazil largely relies on hydropower for electricity generation; in 2020, hydropower supplied 66% of its electricity demand. Wind and solar generation have grown quickly in recent years and had a combined 11% share of the country’s electricity generation in 2020. Biomass accounted for an 8% share. Fossil fuel-fired plants made up another 12% of electricity generation, while nuclear power accounted for 2%.

Most of Brazil’s hydropower capacity is located north in the Amazon River Basin, but electricity demand centers are mainly along the eastern coast, particularly in the south. National electricity reliability is challenged because of the country’s reliance on one resource (hydropower), the long distance between hydropower generation and demand centers, continued drought conditions, and deforestation.

Brazil aims to increase domestic natural gas production to help diversify its generation mix. Brazil has at least 34 natural gas-fired power plants with a total generating capacity of 11,026 megawatts (MW). Natural gas production has been growing as Brazil develops its vast offshore natural gas reserves, most of which are concentrated in the south off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil also imports natural gas by pipeline from Bolivia and as liquefied natural gas primarily from the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, and Nigeria.

Brazil’s two nuclear reactors, Angra-1 and Angra-2, are located between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The units have a combined capacity of 1,884 MW, and they supplied 14.1 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity to both cities in 2020. A third nuclear reactor, Angra-3, is currently under construction. It is expected to be completed between 2026 and 2027 and has a generating capacity of 1,340 MW.

Non-hydro renewables are the fastest-growing technologies in Brazil’s generation mix. With 4,600 miles of windy coastline, Brazil has abundant wind resources. Wind capacity in Brazil, which totaled 17,198 MW in 2020, is growing as new projects come online. One of these projects, Lagoa dos Ventos, began commercial operations in June 2021 and is the largest wind farm in South America. Although solar still represents a small share of the country’s generation mix, it more than doubled between 2018 and 2020, from 3.5 billion kWh to 6.7 billion kWh.

In the Brazilian government's latest 10-year plan, it forecasts that renewable sources will account for most of the additions to installed power capacity expansion by 2030.The largest forecast addition will come from solar.

You can find additional information about Brazil’s energy sector in our Brazil Country Analysis Brief and in our International Energy Statistics.

Principal contributors: Slade Johnson, Nilay Manzagol, Katherine Antonio