Analysis - Auto brands choose wind in Brazil

BRAZIL: Wind power competitiveness in Brazil is attracting investments from other sectors, including the automotive, mining and chemical industries. These are either investing directly in their own generation projects or buying power from renewable sources on the non-regulated market.

One of the high-profile companies in the this movement is Japanese vehicle maker Honda, which recently joined Brazilian wind power association Abeeólica. Honda announced in April that it was setting up a local energy subsidiary to build a 27MW project in southern Brazil with a total investment of BRL 100 million ($44million).

According to Élbia Melo, executive secretary at Abeeólica, Honda is also interested in showing off a stamp that proves it uses wind power in its operations. Volvo and two other automotive manufacturers are also aiming for the stamp, said Melo.

"The drive behind these movements are price and clean power", said Mikio Kawai, CEO of Safira Energia, a Brazilian power trading company. "The automotive sector is looking for clean power because it still produces cars that are polluting." Without naming clients, Kawai said the demand from the automotive sector has increased in the past 18 months.

Swedish vehicle maker Volvo is also planning to invest in renewable power, although it is at a pilot stage of implementing solar and wind micro generation to supply part of its offices in the city of Curitiba in the Brazilian state of Paraná. A company spokesperson told Windpower Monthly that plans are being made to increase investment in renewable power but this will likely be both in wind and solar.

Honda, on the other hand, is already ordering nine 3MW turbines from Vestas for a project that is due to start operations by September 2014. The power will supply the whole energy needs of its factory in the state of São Paulo and, according to Carlos Eigi, CEO of the Honda's local energy subsidiary Honda Energy, should reduce the company's power bills by 44%. The results from the experience will determine whether Honda Energy will invest in new wind power projects to supply its motorbike factory in Manaus in the Amazon forest region.

Kawai confirmed that the financial drive is strong for both buyers and sellers of power in the non-regulated market. According to his calculations, wind developers can sell power at prices anywhere between 30% and 50% higher than the price obtained at the auction, while large consumers can reduce what they pay for each megawatt hour by 10% to 15%.

"Contracts are shorter [three to five years], but wind power is more than competitive in Brazil", Kawai said, pointing out that consumers in Brazil have an option to buy power from several other renewable sources, including biomass and small-scale hydroelectric generation.

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