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Cablegate: Bioelectricity the Next Biofuel - Electricity Series #4

VZCZCXRO4985
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0392/01 2060932
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240932Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8405
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 9536
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 4155
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8791
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 3204
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3451
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2742
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2451
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3863
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 3133
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SAO PAULO 000392

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/EPSC, EEB/ESC/ENR, EEB/ESC/EPC
STATE ALSO FOR E - GREG MANUEL

STATE PASS USTR FOR KDUCKWORTH
STATE PASS EXIMBANK
STATE PASS OPIC FOR DMORONSE, NRIVERA, CMERVENNE
DEPT OF TREASURY FOR JHOEK
DEPT OF ENERGY FOR CGAY, AMIRANDA

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG ECON EAGR ENV BR
SUBJECT: BIOELECTRICITY THE NEXT BIOFUEL - ELECTRICITY SERIES #4

REF: A) Sao Paulo 260; B) Brasilia 593; C) Brasilia 672 D) Sao Paulo
314

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFED--PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary: As the next big development in Brazilian
biofuels, bioelectricity has been touted as the short-term solution
to Brazil's potential electricity shortages. It is a clean source
of electricity that requires little start-up time and is
complementary to Brazil's predominately hydroelectric generation.
In fact, the GOB has scheduled its first bioelectricity auction for
July 30. Once used solely for plant generation, mills are now
turning to bioelectricity because of its profitability as the price
per megawatt of electricity in Brazil has steadily increased while
sugar and ethanol prices have declined. Mills must weigh the
upfront investment costs, which vary widely depending on access to
electricity transmission lines, with bioelectricity's nearly
guaranteed revenue stream. Bioelectricity production in Brazil is
likely to increase as it provides another revenue stream for sugar
and ethanol producers and ultimately, may be the decisive factor in
determining which operators stay in business. There are prime
opportunities for U.S.-Brazil bilateral cooperation on technological
development in gasification that would advance the market for both
biomass products. This is the fourth cable in a Mission-wide series
on electricity in Brazil. End Summary.

What Is It?
----------

2. (U) Bioelectricity is electricity derived from biomass,
primarily from sugarcane in Brazil. Brazilian sugar and ethanol
mills have been burning bagasse, the organic material left over
after milling sugarcane, in high pressure steam boilers to generate
enough energy for self-sustainability. However, sugar producers
were indifferent about generation efficiency as long as they
generated enough electricity to supply their production facilities.
Investment incentives for upgrading to high pressure boilers in the
late 1990s helped supply the first bioelectricity, and when Brazil
experienced electricity black-outs in 2001, it became an invaluable
source of electricity for many industries. Last year, the GOB
showed the first signs of seriously considering bioelectricity to
supplement Brazil's electricity supply when it announced the first
auction exclusively for bioelectricity, scheduled for July 30 of
this year.

Silver Bullet
-------------

3. (SBU) Bioelectricity is the near unanimous short-term solution
to potential electricity shortages in Brazil. As reported earlier,
Brazil's electricity supply and demand picture is in precarious
equilibrium (Ref A). Jeff Safford, Vice President for Business
Development for AES Brazil, told Econoff that biomass generation,
especially bioelectricity, is the only way to create the sufficient
additional installed electricity capacity to deal with demand from
now until 2011. Together 48 of the 405 Brazilian sugar mills
generated approximately three percent of Brazil's electricity supply
in 2007 (1,400 megawatts) and experts estimate that by 2011
bioelectricity production will double to six percent. Enormous
potential efficiency gains by investing in high pressure boilers
would triple electricity generation without increasing sugarcane
production.

4. (SBU) Bioelectricity projects are generally small (particularly
due to investment incentives for less than 30 megawatt (MW)
generators), can come online in as few as two years, and have a
smaller environmental footprint and limited environmental licensing
issues compared to other projects such as new hydroelectric dams.
The sugarcane industry in Brazil has the added advantage of decades
of research and development to improve productivity as well as crop
forecasts that make it a predictable electricity source. The
sugarcane harvest likewise coincides with the dry season in southern

SAO PAULO 00000392 002 OF 004


Brazil, making bioelectricity a perfect complement to hydroelectric
generation. Disposing of accumulated bagasse used to be an
environmental problem; however, larger mills such as Equipav, the
largest bioelectricity generator in Brazil, now buy accumulated
bagasse from other mills to produce electricity. As a clean-burning
source of power, electricity generated from bagasse reduces
greenhouse gases creating Carbon Emissions Reduction credits (CERs)
that can be traded or sold. Indeed, Carlos Silvestrin, Vice
President of the Sao Paulo Association of Cogeneration of Energy
(COGEN-SP), told Econoff that COGEN-SP recently signed an MOU with
the World Bank to develop an internet auction for carbon credits
resulting from cogeneration.

Free Revenue
------------

5. (SBU) Bioelectricity is an extremely lucrative, low-cost, energy
source, which together with various financing and discount
incentives, is prompting traditional sugar mills to incorporate
bioelectricity into their product mix. Plinio Nastari, President of
the sugar and ethanol industry consultancy Datagro, described
bioelectricity as a valuable bi-product and equated bioelectricity
for Brazilian sugar and ethanol producers to distiller's grain for
U.S. ethanol producers. According to Claren Power, a Virginia-based
company that recently entered the Brazilian bioelectricity market,
the domestic market would total USD 24 billion annually if Brazil
exploited its full market potential. Depending on which market
mills opted to sell their excess capacity, estimates range from R$
100 to R$ 170 per MW/h (approximately USD 62 to 106). As an
example, Equipav just closed a USD 250 million deal with
International Paper to supply electricity over the next 12 years.
Brenco, an ethanol distillery based in Sao Paulo, plans to invest
USD 1.5 billion in ten ethanol distilleries, which have a combined
installed capacity of 600 MW, equivalent to 10 percent of the two
Rio Madeira hydro projects. (Note: According to Aneel, the two Rio
Madeira projects, Santo Antonio and Jirau, total 6,450 MW with a
total expected investment of R$ 54 billion (approximately USD 34
billion). See Ref A for more information. End Note.) Brenco
expects that 20 percent of its revenue will come from
bioelectricity.

6. (SBU) The increased competitiveness that bioelectricity offers
is the biggest incentive for Brazilian sugar mills and ethanol
distilleries. According to the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry
Association (UNICA), the average profit margin for mills that sell
bioelectricity is 15 percent, while a majority of sugar/ethanol
mills are suffering losses due to the decline in the price of the
two commodities. Including bioelectricity into the production mix
likewise minimizes exposure to commodity price swings. As a result,
newer mills are more focused on ethanol and bioelectricity than on
sugar production.

Widespread Interest if the Price is Right
-----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Carlos Silvestrin told Econoff that more than 200 mills
had registered more than 10,000 MW potential for the three
electricity auctions this year where bioelectricity will play a
role, scheduled for July 30, August 12, and August 28. The GOB's
price ceiling of R$ 149 MW/h, however, could discourage
participation and push them toward the free market. Indeed, Marcelo
Parodi from Comerc, an electricity trading company based in Sao
Paulo, told Econoff that several mills were interested in selling
bioelectricity on the free market via electricity trading companies
because free market contracts were closer to R$ 170 MW/h. (Note:
See Ref C for more on the free and regulated electricity markets.
End Note.) As a result, Silvestrin estimated that mills would
supply about 5,000 additional MW into the system this year, for a
total of approximately 8,000 MW of installed capacity. (Note:
According to Aneel's Electricity Matrix, Brazil has 3,160 MW of
installed bioelectricity capacity from sugarcane as of July, about
eight percent of installed capacity, but only approximately six

SAO PAULO 00000392 003 OF 004


percent of actual electricity generated. End Note.)

Innovative Contract Designs Reducing Risk
-----------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Unlike hydro generators that produce electricity
year-round, sugar mills for the most part only generate electricity
during the harvest season, typically from May to November. (Note:
Experts generally refer to bioelectricity generation capacity based
on half of the excess installed capacity because of this
seasonality. End Note.) Newly developed regulated and free market
contracts allow mills to sell power during the harvest season, no
longer requiring them to buy electricity on the spot market to meet
their contract terms in the off-months. Traditional contracts had
required mills to supply electricity every day and had forced them
to purchase electricity on the spot market, subjecting them to
enormous price volatility, during the five months they did not
generate bioelectricity.

Investment Incentives
---------------------

9. (SBU) The amount of additional investment needed to enable sugar
and ethanol facilities to produce bioelectricity varies widely
depending on efficiency and distance from existing transmission
lines. For mills that only require efficiency upgrades, the costs
are minimal compared to potential revenue gains. Plinio Nastari
told Econoff that mills could pay off efficiency improvements such
as new boilers and generators within three to four years, while
doubling their return on investments by expanding excess generation
capacity by as little as 15 MW. The efficiency gains of upgrading
from a typical 21 bar boiler (circa 2005) to the more efficient 90
bar boilers currently available, are more than 260 percent. Carlos
Silvestrin told Econoff that it would cost USD 10 billion for two
thirds of mills to upgrade to 90 bar boilers, which would increase
installed capacity to 14,800 MW and bring Brazil's total installed
generation capacity to nearly 113,000 MW, or approximately 13
percent of electricity generation. (Note: See Refs A, B, and C for
more information on Brazil's electricity generation. End Note.)

10. (SBU) The GOB's investment incentives, including attractive
financing terms with the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES)
and discounts for transmission costs, have also encouraged mils to
upgrade their facilities. (Note: The price per MW/h includes the
cost of using transmission lines from the generation source to the
Chamber of Commercialization of Electrical Energy (CCEE) and also
transmission from CCEE to the consumer. The GOB gives a 50 percent
discount to generators that produce less than 30 MW of electricity
from renewable energies, including hydro, biomass, wind and solar
energy, which brings down costs and provides cheaper power for the
consumer. End Note.) Similarly, Saturnino Sergio da Silva, Vice
President for Infrastructure at the Federation of Industries of Sao
Paulo (FIESP) is working with the Sao Paulo government to secure
state tax benefits for efficiency improvements, and told Econoff
that Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff had guaranteed federal benefits
if Sao Paulo succeeded. Silvestrin told Econoff that mills are
partnering with investment funds and other private equity investors
to form special purpose companies to split up generation capacity
into smaller units to take advantage of government incentives
offered to small scale generators (less than 30 MW).

11. (SBU) Many Sao Paulo mills already have access to the grid and
require only retrofit investments; however, connecting to
transmission lines would require significant investments for many
mills in the states of Goias and Mato Grosso do Sul. Nastari
estimated that one kilometer of high voltage transmission line would
cost approximately USD 300,000 and noted that several mills are more
than 50 kilometers away. The issue of funding transmission lines
forced the GOB to delay electricity auctions twice while the
Ministry of Mines and Energy negotiated an agreement with UNICA that
helped mills finance these connections.


SAO PAULO 00000392 004 OF 004


Bright Future Ahead
-------------------

12. (SBU) Bioelectricity has the potential to be a powerful force
in the Brazilian energy matrix. Second generation technological
advancements to incorporate sugarcane tops and leaves (known as
trash) as a source for bioelectricity generation do not currently
exist, but will eventually make significant contributions. UNICA
estimates that if both trash and bagasse were used, mills could
nearly double bioelectricity generation without additional sugarcane
production. According to Onorio Kitayama, UNICA's bioelectricity
expert, by 2012 mills on average would contribute more than 4,000 MW
to the grid using 75 percent of bagasse, but could contribute an
additional 3,000 MW by using only half of the trash. (Note: One
fourth of the bagasse would be used for cogeneration and half of the
trash would be left on the fields as fertilizers for future crops.
End Note.) Kitayama noted that his estimates were based on current
boiler efficiencies, and that he expected significantly greater
gains based on projected technological advancements. Gasification
technology currently under development would improve efficiency and
output of bioelectricity and allow flexibility in feedstock
(including using the trash) for electricity generation. According
to Kitayama, gasification would triple the efficiency of steam
boilers and also could incorporate other feedstocks to drive
year-round bioelectricity generation.

Comment
-------

13. (SBU) Bioelectricity will play a key role in determining the
winners and losers within the sugar and ethanol industry. Those
that adapt to capitalize on this developing trend would have a
competitive advantage over traditional mills. Incorporating
bioelectricity into the national electricity grid, whether through
the GOB sponsored auctions or free market contracts, would also
provide more energy assurance for the private sector to make
long-term investment decisions.

14. (SBU) At first glance, bioelectricity appears to compete with
cellulosic ethanol for the same primary input, bagasse. Indeed,
first generation bioelectricity, burning bagasse via steam boilers,
may limit the receptivity of Brazilian mills to second generation
cellulosic ethanol production, and until world ethanol prices
outpace Brazilian electricity prices, it may play second fiddle.
However, the same technologies under development for cellulosic
ethanol, specifically gasification, would also revolutionize
bioelectricity development, providing an opening for both to play a
role in Brazil's biofuels future. Bioelectricity also provides an
opportunity to encourage mills to incorporate other feedstocks to
produce electricity in the off-season. During the recent exchange
visit by U.S. scientists to Brazil under the Biofuels MOU, the U.S.
scientists identified bioelectricity as a promising area for
bilateral collaboration for continued focus under the MOU (Ref D).
End Comment.

15. (U) This cable was coordinated/cleared by the Embassy in
Brasilia.

STORY

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