Could the World Cup Push Brazil to Energy Efficiency?
The World Cup certainly has not been the uniting force Brazil’s leaders had expected. Cost overruns, corruption and Brazilians’ demands for more effective social services instead of posh stadia have certainly put a damper on this summer’ s mega sports event.
But there is a chance something good could come out this summer’s football tourney. Obviously winning the World Cup would cheer a nation rattled by social unrest and a slowing economy. But an impending crisis could nudge the country in a more sustainable direction.
Like much of the world, drought has ravaged much of Brazil. The consequences are particularly harsh for this water-rich nation because as much as two-thirds of its electricity comes from hydropower. When the rains fall, power, at least for most of the country, hums along nicely. But when reservoirs’ levels run low, the results can become chaotic.
Now diminished rainfall could have a detrimental impact on Brazil at a time when the nation least wants to see it—during the World Cup later this summer, when many cities’ infrastructure will already be strained by an influx of visitors. Analysts are already saying Brazilian power companies will have no choice but to ration power—and of course those who will be forced into such rations will not be the hotels and venues where the World Cup will be showcased.
Businesses have already been affected by the potential power rationing: Brazil’s aluminium sector is resigned to such a reality within the coming year, and the equities markets have already taken a hit. The federal government, as usual, appears to be denial, however. Skittish over raising electricity rates in an election year, the government is doing what governments do best: kicking the can down the road.
To paraphrase an old saying, a potential crisis should not go to waste. A proactive approach before the one-month World Cup could be an opportunity. Just as the government succeeded with its Bolsa Familia welfare program over the past decade, Brazil can lift its citizens out of potential energy poverty and into energy efficiency. Campaigns and incentives to encourage residents and businesses to retrofit their homes and offices would be a start—as well as taking a firmer stance on incandescent light bulb sales would be a step as well. Such programs are much more productive tactics than rolling blackouts and fining homes for excessive energy usage—the approach Brazil took over a decade ago—and would be a huge risk now considering how mistrustful Brazilians are of their institutions at the moment.
[Image credit of Morro de São Paulo, Brazil: Leon Kaye]