Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blackout in Brazil

I don't know whether it's because the Low Carbon Kid is in town, but yesterday was the biggest power cut in the history of Brazil, so big it made the front page of the Guardian newspaper.

I was in a Brazilian restaurant near the Avenida Paulista with Katey Moran, the author I am sharing the trip with, and two of her friends who teach at the St Paul's School where we are working this week. We were waiting for the main course when suddenly all the lights went out except for the emergency exit lights. These went out soon after.

Used to this kind of thing back home in Wales, I expected them to come on quite soon. I am well aware that there are frequent small power cuts in local areas here in Brazil. Then somebody got a call on their mobile from a relative in Rio de Janeiro who said the power was out there too, and in Brasilia, and we realised that it was big.

The waiter didn't bring candles until I asked for them! But then he bought a rather elegant oil-fed light also.

dining by candlelight in the Sao Paulo blackout. This is not us, but very much like us and in the same area!

We looked out the window - some places had lights on, most of them were dark and people were thronging the pavements talking in the light of the headlamps of passing cars. We speculated as to the cause and agreed that it was probable that it was the Itaipu hydroelectric plant as in fact it turned out to be.

Perhaps we'll never find out exactly what the cause was, but one thing is the sure: it's what happens if you put all your energy eggs into one supply basket.

Luckily the rest of the kitchen was cooking on gas and we got our main course. Luckily we didn't see any looting.

Unluckily we still had to pay our restaurant bill even though the cash till wasn't working!

We came back through darkened streets in the taxi. The hotel had a generator and some of the lifts were working though there were no lights in the rooms.

There's nothing like the power going out to make you appreciate electricity when it is there. Perhaps it's a signal to President Lula, but if so he's getting the wrong message. Today he pledged to use the revenue from the potential future exploitation of the Pre-Salt oil fields to strengthen the grid infrastructure.

As I said in my previous blog, this absolutely must be left under the sea where it is now, for the sake of the planet. Brazil is blessed with a variety of potential sources of energy, and solar power is one of them. A feed-in tariff like the one coming in in the UK and already in force in many European countries would be a brilliant incentive to diversify and localise the energy supply while creating wealth amongst the population. There's no shortage of other potential sources of sustainable energy.

Brazil needs to continue with its own development of renewable energy, not go backwards into the fossil age.

1 comment:

Greg Delaney said...

it was good to find out that the blackout actually was caused by faulty equipment -- not hackers