Brazil announces contract winners -- Proinfa participants

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Brazil's federal power company Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras (Eletrobras) has selected 27 wind projects from 14 companies to participate in the government's Proinfa renewable power program, exactly matching the 1100 MW set aside for wind power plants. The selections were announced on June 23.

The biggest winners are Enerbrasil, of Spanish utility Iberdrola, with four projects for 243.3 MW, and Enerfin, of Spain's Elecnor, with three 50 MW projects. Arguably, the biggest losers are Siif Energies, the renewables arm of French utility EDF, and Spain's Gamesa. Siif has around 1800 MW of projects on paper in Brazil, but won just one contract for 6.7 MW. Gamesa's wind development business, which has some 565 MW of Brazilian wind power in planning, missed out altogether.

Companies bid wind projects with a combined capacity of 3600 MW. Eletrobras allocated contracts on a first come, first served basis, according to the date on which each project gained its environmental license. In line with the Proinfa rules, half the contracts have been awarded to independent power producers unrelated to state power companies, with the remainder going to major power industry players.

The selected projects are evenly distributed across seven states in the north-east and south of Brazil, with four states, Ceara, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, and Santa Catarina, reaching the 220 MW limit imposed by the Proinfa rules. Rio De Janeiro state, where environmental licences were issued later than elsewhere, did not win any contracts.

Eletrobras was expected to sign the contracts on June 30. They include 1100 MW of small-scale hydroelectric power and 995 MW of biomass projects. Biomass was the only source not to absorb its full 1100 MW allowance for Proinfa contracts.

For wind, Eletrobras will sign 20-year power purchase agreements paying BRL 204/MWh ($70/MWh) for projects with a capacity factor of up to 34.2%, with the price falling to BRL 180/MWh for capacity factors up to 41.9%. Eletrobras will spend some $12 billion on Proinfa projects over the 20 years.

The projects must be up and running by December 2006 and are expected to attract BRL 8.6 billion ($3 billion) of investments. It remains to be seen which turbine manufacturers will be picked as technology suppliers. Wobben Windpower (controlled by Germany's Enercon), General Electric of the US and Spain's Gamesa are favoured companies, with manufacturing or assembly facilities already operating in Brazil. Whether Vestas, which has not gone ahead with plans laid by NEG Micon for a South American manufacturing base, is still in the running for contracts remains to be seen. Vestas has just completed its merger with NEG Micon.

Uncertainty remains about the fate of projects left outside Proinfa. There are still some 127 wind plants authorised by electric power regulator Aneel, with a combined capacity of 6456 MW. But just how many of them will survive outside the subsidised world of Proinfa remains to be seen.

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