Renewable energy in Brazil will get a boost after the chief executive of Petrobras, the country’s state-run oil giant, said the company will begin buying solar power and onshore wind projects in an effort to build a clean energy portfolio.
Jean Paul Prates, in an interview with the Reuters news service published Jan. 22, said Petrobras is looking to acquire about 2 GW of renewable energy generation capacity. The company wants to buy stakes in solar and wind farms that are already operating. The company has said “investments in new energies” is part of its 2024-2028 strategic plan.
Brazilian business leaders have said the country’s government needs to invest more into domestic projects. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, on Monday discussed a government plan to invest 300 billion reals ($60 billion) into the country’s industrial sector in an effort to jump-start a struggling economy. The “New Industry Brazil” plan, a 10-year strategy designed by Geraldo Alckmin, the country’s vice president and minister of development and industry, is aimed at supporting economic growth with state credits and subsidies. The plan is a departure from the previous administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, whose government sought to sell off assets.
Lula put forth a similar plan for Brazil during his first term as president, from 2003-2010. That plan, though, was dogged by problems, including a corruption scandal that eventually led to Lula being jailed in 2017. He was released in 2019 after a court ruled the judge who oversaw the trial was biased, and Lula’s convictions were overturned.
Prates did not say how much Petrobras plans to invest toward renewable energy, but a November 2023 filing from the company reported the oil giant plans a $5.2 billion outlay for solar and wind energy.
Prates, in discussing what the renewable energy play would mean for Petrobras, told Reuters, “The market will see that the transition will be carried out in a firm and responsible way and will recognize this.” The investment will focus on assets within Brazil; Mauricio Tolmasquim, the company’s lead on its energy transition, in early January had told Reuters that Petrobras would not invest in renewable energy projects outside the country.
Brazilian lawmakers have been working on a plan for offshore wind development in addition to supporting onshore renewable energy. Petrobras, working with Norway-based offshore wind leader Equinor, presented its first studies for offshore wind to government officials last year.
“We will practically reign alone in this market,” Prates told Reuters. “This is our big bet.”
Government data shows renewable energy accounted for more than 90% of Brazil’s electricity generation last year, that largest amount among the world’s leading economies. About 70% of the country’s power comes from its large hydropower dams. Solar power continues to grow; the country’s National Electric Energy Agency last fall said Brazil now has more than 30 GW of solar generation capacity, having added between 4 GW and 5 GW in the past year.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).