By André Pepitone da Nóbrega
Since 2008, Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency – ANEEL has been carrying out studies and adopting regulations that pave the way for the deployment of smart grids. Highlights include the Normative Resolution 464/2011 introducing the “white tariff”, which provides for the application of differentiated hourly tariffs for low voltage consumers, with cheaper rates in lower demand periods, and The Normative Resolution 482/2012, which regulates distributed micro- and mini-generation.
But the real milestone occurred with the publication of Normative Resolution 502/2012, of which I had the honour and satisfaction of being the rapporteur within ANEEL.
Based on approximately four years of studies and discussions with leading experts in the field, as well as examination of successful initiatives in other countries, this regulation established the minimum requirements for electronic meters in Brazil. It provides for two types of meters: one to allow the use of the white tariff modality, showing the active power consumption and tariff on a per tariff basis, and the other, more complete, enabling access to all the smart grid functionalities.
The Resolution established that after 18 months from August 2012, distributors should offer electronic meters to consumers opting for the white rate. That is, as from February 2014, distributors would be required to install, free of charge, meters with the minimum functionality to any consumer who will demand the white rate. Those selecting the more complete meter, with more features, would be required to pay an amount, except if the distributor initiates the initiative, in which case the distributor will cover the costs in full.
It is without doubt a challenging deadline, both for the government and the industry, as this revolution in the country’s power distribution systems entails the need to establish public policies to encourage the technological development and production, and supply credit lines to the meter industry and the distribution companies for the modernization of technology and the distribution systems.
This construction is complex. It involves not only the investments of the distributors, but also changes in the habits of consumers, who will now be able to control their consumption, very easily have the option of paying different rates according to the time of use and closely monitor the energy consumption of appliances. It is the internalization of a culture of consumer awareness of energy.
And the Brazilian society will benefit from the results, among others, of improvement in the quality of supply at low voltage, improvement in the frequency and duration of interruptions in energy supply, and reduction in non-technical losses of energy – locally known popularly as “cats”, “hacks” or “monkeys” – amounting to R$8 billion annually.
What have been the concrete steps since the passing of the Normative Resolution 502/2012? The smart grid is a theme that permeates many areas of study in the research options offered by ANEEL under its R&D program, including topics such as quality of service, measurement and prevention of losses and energy efficiency. There are currently 178 projects under the R&D program of ANEEL involving smart grid in the country, with investments totaling over R$411 million.
ANEEL has endeavoured to work with all stakeholders including the industry, utilities and government agencies like INMETRO, to share experiences and identify challenges, acting as a facilitator in order to expedite the replacement of meters and deployment of smart grids in the country. This includes the issuance of the metrology regulation, which will establish the guidelines for approval of new models of meters and editing of technical standards for the meters.
Recently, the Department of Energy of the United States published a report that analyzes the impact of the finance program that encouraged the deployment of smart grids in that country. In this it was concluded that the incentive to this deployment has impacted positively on the industry by modernizing it, improved the US economic production indicators and generated new jobs in different wage levels.
Nothing is too different from what I could see when, in June 2012, I attended the international plenary on smart grids, of the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in Brussels, Belgium. The meeting was attended by over 100 delegates from 27 countries of the European Union and invited countries that shared successful experiences on smart grids.
In the United States and Europe, smart grids are a reality. Here in Brazil, we are in the phase of construction – it’s hard, but it will bring great benefits to our society. This phenomenon is very reminiscent of what happened with the internet itself, which arrived in Brazil on a commercial scale only in the mid-1990s. However, after its initial steps, Brazilians took to it and have made the country one of its biggest users.
With smart grid, it should be no different. The recent launch of the Inova Energia program, which supports the development and dissemination of electronic devices, microelectronics, systems, integrated solutions and standards for the implementation of smart grids in Brazil, and the fact that the Ministry of Mines and Energy is debating public policies to stimulate the deployment of smart grids, suggest that, before long, we will have here in Brazil what I call a real “internet of energy”, combining the transport of electrons and information.