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Solar energy projects lower bills in Rio de Janeiro favelas

A solar project in the Babilonia favela in Rio de Janeiro, can help reduce electricity costs for residents.

  • A solar PV project in a slum in Brazil is helping to lower electricity prices for residents.
  • Solar PV panels feed electricity to the grid, and the utility gives participating families a discount on their electricity bills.
  • The project was launched in June 2021 by community leaders and a non-profit organization Revolusolar.

In a slum on a hill with breathtaking views of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach, a roof covered with photovoltaic panels glistens in the tropical sun – one of many in Brazil’s first favela solar energy project.

The solar panels on the roof of a community organization in the Babilonia favela take one thing that the impoverished neighborhood has in abundance – sunshine – and use it to lower electricity bills while expanding renewable energy sources.

The 60 panels supply electricity directly to the grid. In return, the utility gives 34 families who join the cooperative a necessary discount on their accounts.

Another 44 panels will be installed above private companies, including a local hostel, which will also receive discounts as part of the cooperative.

“People in the favelas all too often have to decide between paying for their electricity bills and buying food,” says the head of the cooperative, Stefano Motta.

“More and more residents are coming to us with complaints about their light bills – sometimes 600 reais ($ 125) a month or more.

We use it to raise awareness of the importance of solar energy for the economy and the environment, “said the 45-year-old Italian, who moved to Rio ten years ago and now lives in Chapeu Mangueira – the favela next to Babylon, who also participates in the cooperative.

The project was launched last June by community leaders and a non-profit organization called Revolusolar.

It comes at a critical moment for residents of favelas who are struggling to pay their bills. The average electricity price for residential customers in Brazil is expected to increase by 21% this year, after increasing 7% last year, according to the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL).

Marcia Campos, a 51-year-old social worker living in Babylon, says that before joining the solar cooperative, she had trouble paying her electricity bills, which had risen to nearly 500 reais per month – about the half of the Brazilian monthly minimum wage.

“Well, my (bill) is about 260 reais per month, sometimes as low as 180” in particularly sunny months, she told AFP.

Electricity crunch

Last year, two major hydroelectric producing regions in Brazil were hit by their worst drought in nearly a century, causing rivers to shrink that feed dams that produce nearly 60% of the country’s electricity supply.

That sent the authorities to shoot to set up costly thermal power plants to compensate.

But proponents of clean energy say renewable energy sources are a better option for the economy and the environment.

In the favelas, solar is also an alternative to dangerous, secret electricity connections known as “gatos”, which residents use to illegally connect their homes to the net.

Electric utility companies estimate the usual practice costs of 1.5 billion reais a year, and contribute to higher prices for all others.

Spread quickly

Brazil currently receives only 1.8% of its energy consumption from solar.

But solar energy production for residential homes from projects like the one in Babylon “is growing very fast,” says Carlos Aparecido, a professor of electrical engineering at Rio de Janeiro State University.

Solar energy will generate an average of 878 megawatts in Brazil in 2021, up 29.3% from 2020, according to the electricity grid operator, the National Interconnected System (SIN).

Solar is becoming more popular in the favelas of Rio, home to nearly 1.4 million of the city’s 6.8 million people.

“For the poor, it’s a sustainable alternative to paying for high electricity bills,” says Aparecido.

In Vidigal, another iconic favela with breathtaking views of the Rio coastline, a community organization called Ser Alzira launched a solar panel project in December, using a cooperative model similar to that in Babylon.

“We really needed it,” said Elma de Aleluia, the organization’s founder, who bought the panels with the help of private sector donations.

“Thanks to the savings on the electricity bills, I have money to spend on our other projects.”

Solar energy projects lower bills in Rio de Janeiro favelas

Source link Solar energy projects lower bills in Rio de Janeiro favelas

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