A commitment signed by federal and state authorities in Brazil Thursday was described by the energy minister as a “historic step” towards promoting wind powerThe so-called “wind charter” is aimed at

developing public policies and setting targets for the production of

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wind energy, which currently accounts for less than one percent of the

power generated in South America’s giant.

It also establishes goals for raising funds, formulating

public policies and creating incentives for developing wind power, a

clean renewable source of energy that is growing 27 percent a year

worldwide.

Brazil has the greatest wind power potential in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to experts.

The document “is a historic step forward for wind energy in

Brazil,” Environment Minister Carlos Minc told IPS in a telephone

interview.

“Today we set goals and outlined financing and regulatory

frameworks, and we won’t miss the wind power train again,” said the

minister from Natal, the capital of the northeastern state of Rio

Grande do Norte.

Minc was one of the signatories of the “wind charter” at the

end of a two-day National Wind Energy Forum that ended Friday in Natal

and was attended by the state energy secretaries, national authorities,

legislators and representatives of the business community.

The minister announced that the administration of left-wing

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva planned to gradually eliminate all

taxes on wind power-generating equipment.

The first step in that direction was the announcement of the

first auction of licenses for developing wind energy, scheduled for

Nov. 25.

Minc told IPS that his ministry would propose that the

government hold such auctions every year, and that the permits be

increased from a power generation capacity of 2,000 megawatts, to 3,000

megawatts.

The minister said it was “shameful” that a country like

Brazil, which has the biggest wind energy potential in the region,

produces a mere 200 megawatts of wind power.

The short-term outlook is to increase total wind power

generation capacity to 30,000 or 40,000 megawatts, but the potential is

much greater than that: around 140,000 megawatts, according to the

latest wind atlas.

The Brazilian Wind Industry Association, however, estimates

the potential at 300,000 megawatts, which according to the

association’s president, Lauro Fiuza, represents three times the

current capacity of all energy sources in Brazil.

Minc said that as well as creating incentives for clean

renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, his ministry has

pushed through initiatives like the requirement that coal- and

diesel-fired thermal power plants pay the costs of their greenhouse gas

emissions with measures like re-planting forests.

He also said large hydroelectric projects, currently the main

source of energy in this country of 190 million people, now face a much

more rigorous environmental permitting process.

Rio Grande do Norte state energy secretary Jean-Paul Prates

said the significance of the “wind charter” lies in its detailed

timeframe for promoting wind energy through incentives for R&D and

by cutting taxes.

Prates told IPS that at the start, government subsidies are

“inevitable” for stepping up wind energy production. He pointed out

that state support was used to encourage development of wind power in

Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and “even the United States,

which is more free-market-oriented.”

He added that it is a myth that wind power is more expensive to generate than traditional sources of energy.

The state energy secretary stressed that “wind is free,” and

that some estimates fail to take into account other costs of

traditional energy sources, like pollution and its social and economic

consequences.

Another common myth, said Prates, is that wind turbines kill

wildlife. He said that idea emerged from early wind parks in the U.S.

state of California, which were located on bird migration routes and

operated with older technology. The newer models have been designed to

reduce bird mortality.

At any rate, power lines, collisions with trucks, automobiles

and buildings, and feral cats are all much bigger killers of birds.

Another misconception discussed by a panel at the National

Wind Energy Forum on “myths and truths about wind energy” is that the

turbines create “visual pollution,” said Prates.

Surveys carried out in areas where wind parks have been set up

show that they do not bother local residents, because people are aware

that they generate electricity and thus provide economic benefits, he

said.

Because of its strong, constant winds, Rio Grande do Norte on

the Atlantic coast in the extreme northeast of Brazil is one of the

states with the greatest potential for expanding wind energy.

In a conversation with IPS, Governor Wilma de Faria

highlighted the efforts made by her state to encourage wind energy

production.

The state has two wind parks that generate 53 megawatts.

Faria of the Brazilian Socialist Party emphasised that her state alone

could generate 22,000 megawatts or more, according to new studies that

assess potential in windy areas.

Rio Grande do Norte’s aim is to generate 8,000 megawatts of

wind energy a year five years from now, by auctioning permits and

offering incentives.

The state, which is not self-sufficient in energy production,

thus hopes to eventually be able to sell surplus electricity to other

parts of the country.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),

Brazil is the world’s largest renewable energy market, with around 46

percent of the country’s energy coming from renewable sources, which

represent 85 percent of its power generation capacity due to its vast

hydropower resources and its decades-old ethanol industry.

In addition, Brazil accounted for more than 90 percent of new

investment in renewable energy in Latin America in 2008, UNEP reported.

Furthermore, over 90 percent of new cars run on any proportion

of gasoline and sugar cane ethanol, which produces fewer greenhouse gas

emissions than fossil fuels.

Despites its steady growth, wind energy is still considered a

marginal source of energy, with just one percent of global electricity

consumption coming from wind.

But in some countries the proportion is much higher: 20

percent in Denmark, 13 percent in Spain, 11 percent in Portugal and

nine percent in Italy. (END/2009)

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