Socioenvironmental Analysis for Energy Planning

Nowadays, environmental issues are present in every discussion of the energy sector, including policies, planning and specific details of plant operation. This reflects on the way EPE conducts its discussions and studies regarding energy planning.

In order to assure coherence with legal and technical-scientific frameworks, EPE dialogs with different institutions and economic sectors, seeking for alignment with emerging concepts and tools towards sustainable development of the Brazilian energy sector.

Interactions related to socio and environmental issues addressed by energy planning studies and examples of associated activities

The concept of sustainability is incorporated into EPE´s studies through insertion of the environmental variable in energy planning, seeking for avoidance impacts, whenever possible, on sensitive areas from a socioenvironmental perspective and minimization of negative impacts.

Socioenvironmental analyses are elaborated for long and mid-term energy planning studies, contributing to the indication of available energy resources and definition of expansion, aiming the construction of a sustainable energy matrix. Greenhouse gas emissions are also calculated.

Besides, for mid-term energy planning, based on expected expansion, socioenvironmental aspects are analyzed for each energy source (hydro, wind, solar, thermal sources that use fossil fuel, biomass; petroleum, natural gas and biofuel) and for transmission lines. An integrated socioenvironmental analysis is also carried out and its outcomes are priority issues for environmental management of the sector.

Environmental sustainability criteria are considered in the survey of energy resources. Regarding the hydroelectric potential, in the Hydropower Inventory Studies of a river basin socioenvironmental criteria are considered to define the best cascade. In these studies the cumulative and synergetic effects of the selected cascade are also evaluated through an Integrated Environmental Assessment (Avaliação Ambiental Integrada - AAI).

For oil and natural gas, the Environmental Assessments of Sedimentary Areas (AAAS in Portuguese) are being initiated, in order to conciliate future oil and natural gas activities with regional socioenvironmental aspects. These evaluations, conducted by an inter-ministerial group of which EPE takes part, will provide important subsidies for government actions and will increase legal security in environmental licensing processes. AAAS requires, as a central element, an Environmental Study of Sedimentary Area (ESSA); and its main result is the delimitation of the studied sedimentary basin in "suitable", "not suitable" and "in moratorium" areas for the exploration and production of oil and natural gas (E&P), guiding future Bidding Rounds of exploratory blocks and making recommendations for the Environmental Licensing of the suitable areas.

For the gas pipelines, the socioenvironmental analyses aim to determining the best route of the planned pipelines.

In the case of transmission lines, during the initial studies (known as R1 reports), reference corridors are defined and characterized for the planned transmission lines and potential areas are indicated for the implantation of new power substations. Such early planning stage aims to avoid interference on protected areas and other areas in which relevant socioenvironmental sensitivity is identified. The socio-environmental analysis in this planning stage also allows visualizing possible complications for implementation stage of the projects, hence, reflect in lower costs and shorter building time.

In the short-term, in the project scale, EPE is responsible for contract and monitor an Environmental Impact Study (EIA) in order to obtain the Preliminary License (LP) of hydroelectric plants. The EIA assesses the environmental impacts of the plant, based on an environmental and socioeconomic diagnosis of the region, and recommends measures and programs to minimize negative impacts and maximize positive ones. Elaboration of an EIA includes several activities such as: field surveys, laboratory analyses, stakeholder communication and management, among others. In cases where hydroelectric plant may have an impact on the livelihoods and cultures of indigenous peoples and their lands, FUNAI (Brazilian Indigenous Office) requests the elaboration of specific studies about indigenous people and their livelihood (ECI). Hence, a diagnosis of the indigenous land and its inhabitants is elaborated, possible impacts are identified and socio-environmental programs are proposed to mitigate or compensate them.

Upon completion of these studies and issue of the Preliminary License, the project can be enrolled in energy auctions.

Other EPE activities regarding socio-environmental analyses involve qualification of enterprises to participate in electric power auctions. Verification of environmental licenses is carried out, as well as the Water Availability Reserve Declaration (DRDH) for hydropower projects or Water Use Grant for thermoelectric projects. For hydroelectric projects it is also carried out an analysis of the socioenvironmental costs composing the investment budget, in order to define the ceiling price in the auction.