Thomas Owens, MEM

2012 TRI Fellow in Brazil

Analyzing the socioeconomic benefits of wind power development and manufacturing for workers and affected communities in Northeastern Brazil.

Brazil is considered one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world with vast resources ranging from the untapped to the overly exploited.  Renewable energies in Brazil have taken off in recent years due to recent PROINFA support policies and a patchwork of state incentives and development financing.  While some sources, such as wind, have become the darling of the Brazilian government and development banks, others such as solar have lagged behind with less support despite equally strong natural conditions.  The purpose of this research is to determine how Brazil is growing with respect to solar energy and determine if there are opportunities to further its growth with a focus on low income and remote populations.

The Rio Plus 20 conference served as a platform for industry and policy specialists to collaborate on clean energy initiatives.  During the Rio Plus 20 and EnerSolar Conferences, meetings were conducted with a number of top policy officials, solar developers and solar manufacturers determining their reasons for entry or hesitation in the Brazilian solar energy market.  Interview results were collected from 30 manufacturers and developers and coded for anonymity.  Follow up questionnaires were conducted in Italian, Chinese, Portuguese and English depending on the company’s technical language proficiency.  Results will show what impact the policy, regulatory, and natural conditions have on the outlook for solar energy in Brazil.  Furthermore, this research will determine what regulatory and market certainty gaps might encourage investment if remedied and what opportunities exist outside of traditional solar development.