The Brazilian electricity industry is among the cleanest in the world. Since 2016, more than 80 percent of the electricity generation in the country originated from renewable sources. This relative independence from fossil fuels in electricity generation stems from the exploitation of the abundant water resources Brazil has available. In fact, hydropower accounted for roughly two thirds of the national electricity generation in 2018.
The first hydropower plant in Brazil was inaugurated more than a century ago, in 1889, in the state of Minas Gerais. Since then, the country went on to become the second largest hydropower producer in the world, with more than 400 terawatt-hours of electricity generated from water in 2018. The Itaipu Dam, located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, is the second largest hydroelectric dam in the world based on generation capacity, only behind the Three Gorges Dam in China.
The main Brazilian hydropower plants were either fully constructed by Eletrobras or with a large participation from this electricity company. Also known as Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras, Eletrobras - a publicly traded company controlled by the Brazilian government - is one of the sector’s leading players in the country. Operating in the segments of generation, transmission and until recently, distribution of electrical energy, Eletrobras’ subsidiaries include major local electricity suppliers such as Furnas, Eletronorte, Chesf, and Eletronuclear. CPFL Energia, in turn, is one of the largest privately-owned electricity generation and distribution companies in Brazil.
In terms of consumption, the regional distribution is a statement to the economic inequalities that exist throughout the national territory. For instance, the Southeastern region, home to the country’s largest urban agglomerations – namely, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro – accounted for over half of the total electricity consumed in 2018. This region also had the second highest per capita electricity consumption that year, amounting to around 2.7 megawatt-hours per inhabitant.