The Brazilian Energy Distribution System

Published: 27 Jan 2016

Last Updated: 27 Jan 2016

The Brazilian energy distribution system represents a critical aspect of the country’s infrastructure. In this article we will present an overview of Brazil’s energy distribution system.

Main Regulators and Government Agencies

The current energy distribution system in Brazil was planned and developed during the middle of the 1990’s, and only updated during 2004. Similarly to the sector of telecommunications, the national energy system underwent a restructuring process during the end of the 20th century with the goals of establishing a regulated yet efficient structure for energy generation, transmission and distribution.

One of the main results of this reform was the establishment of the Sistema Interligado Nacional, or NIS, Portuguese for National Interconnected System, which is the name of the interlinked power grid that serves all Brazilian states and emcompasses over 98% of all the energy produced in the country. Although the regulatory changes allowed for the private sector to take part in multiple aspects of the SIN, such as taking part in concession contracts to operate in multiple parts of the system, the new model still retained a number of crucial roles for government agencies, most of which are associated with the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Some of the main entities in charge of regulating and operating the national energy system include the:

  • National Electrical System Operator, or ONS: Organisation responsible for operating and coordinating the energy generation and transmission systems of SIN
  • Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency, or ANEEL: Government agency responsible for regulating the national energy matrix and related markets
  • Chamber of Commercialisation of Electrical Energy, or CCEE: Main operator of the electricity market in Brazil, responsible for monitoring the prices for energy distribution, advising on the activities of national power plants and for launching auctions for generation and distribution contracts

In general terms, the energy sector in Brazil can be considered highly centralised and firmly regulated by the state. Some examples of the state control include the requirement for private players to take part in auctions and concession agreements to enter the national market and also price-fixing for the segments of transmission and distribution.

Power Grid Overview

The SIN grid is divided into multiple interconnected distribution complexes that transport electricity to various regions of the country. The grids structure allows for power plants in various regions to feed into the same central lines, a factor that contributes to increasing the overall resilience of the national energy system.

The main energy transportation complexes are composed of high-voltage transmission lines. According to national regulation, power lines that operate at over 230 KV are categorised as transmission lines, while those that operate at an inferior voltage are categorised as distribution lines. These are those that are closer to reaching the end users and in Brazil are usually set at voltages of 13.8 KV or 34.5 KV. ANEEL’s data indicate that there are currently over 125.000 km of installed transmission lines.