Brazil, Blackout and Smart GridTuesday, February 22nd, 2011 by Leticia Decker
In the night between last Thursday and Friday a blackout took place over 8 states in the north-east of Brazil, according to BBC and G1 (the news site of the biggest television station in Brazil). Edison Lobão, Brazilian Minister of Mines and Energy, said it was probably caused by a fault originated in the Luiz Gonzaga substation (located in the city of Jatobá, state of Pernambuco). Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff took some decisions to handle the situation. It was announced that Rousseff wants greater accuracy in maintaining the network by the energy agencies, and better supervision of the power grid by ANEEL – National Agency of Electrical Energy in Brazil. Some of these affected states include cities hosting the 2014 Football World Cup matches, but according to Edison Lobão there is no reason to be concerned, because the system is “good although it has some faults”, like every big system.
If energy in Brazil were managed through a smart grid, the impact of blackouts would be much less. One of the advantages of moving to a smart grid is to survive different kinds of localized network failures, such as those which happened in Brazil last week. With sensors and smart meters, it is possible to identify problems when they occur and take the right decision to solve or minimize their impact. Redirecting energy from/to alternative routes could be a solution to this problem and it can be possible in the new grid.
Blackouts are more common than most people imagine. In 2003 there was a memorable one in Italy, affecting all the country except the islands of Sardinia and Capri. It lasted for about 12 hours, also affecting part of Switzerland near Geneva for 3 hours. Also in 2003, the second biggest blackout in history left about 55 million people in darkness in the north-east of U.S. and south-east of Canada. But the record is the 1999 Brazilian Blackout, which is estimated to have affected between 75 to 97 million people.
Changing to a new network architecture requires a large investment. Nowadays, Brazil has about 63 million consumer units and just changing the measurement devices to smart meters represents a spending of 7.5 to 19 billion dollars. However, even though the smart metering isn’t enough to transform the network into a smart grid, it may be a first step since it should increase the consumer ability to better manage the electricity bill and her electrical devices from remote, thus helping in decreasing the load on the network.