Uruguay and Brazil Interconnection To Optimise Power Supplies

The US$4.8 million Uruguay-Brazil interconnection will provide power trading opportunities and improve supply security.
Published: Fri 09 Jan 2015

Brazil's state-run energy group Eletrobras has announced plans to invest US$5.3 billion to upgrade and modernize its electric power infrastructure this year. The forecast outlay represents an increase of US$790 million on the 2014 figure.

The company’s 2015 strategy lays out a bold vision: “To be among the world's three cleanest energy companies and in the top 10 for size."

Eletrobras' project pipeline for new (mostly clean renewable energy sources) generation plants, due online by 2019 stands at 22.4GW. The figure includes plants totaling 12GW in which Eletrobras acts as the operator.

These investments are expected to take the company's installed capacity from 43GW to 56.4GW. An additional 23.1GW of installed capacity is under consideration from future projects, with planned investments of US$30.5 billion.

Optimising interconnection

Eletrobras’ strategy also includes the completion of the long-awaited Uruguay-Brazil transmission interconnection. The project is due for completion in the middle of 2015 and will improve interconnection between the two countries, says Gonzalo Casaravilla, head of Uruguay's state power utility UTE.

"At times energy is cheaper in one country than in the other, a fluctuation that must be optimized," explained Casaravilla. "For that, we need infrastructure."

The US$350 million project, originally slated for completion in 2013, has faced delays due to budget constraints and labour disputes.

The countries' grids have been linked for 32 years through the shared Salto Grande hydro plant. The new transmission line will stretch 303km, allowing for 500MW of shared capacity.

In Brazil, work will be carried out to expand the Presidente Médici substation and another 230kV/525kV substation in Candiota will be constructed. Eletrobras and its subsidiary Eletrosul have already finished work on the 230kV, 1.8 mile (2.89km) transmission line linking Presidente Médici to Candiota and a 500 kV, 37 mile(59km) line between Candiota and the border city of Aceguá.

Power trade opportunity for Uruguay

According to Eletrobras, the US$4.8 million project will be capable of providing up to a third of Uruguay's electricity needs. Although the Uruguayan government will invest about US $350 million in this project, it creates the opportunity to make potential annual savings of approximately US $200 million. Uruguay will have the opportunity to sell electricity to Brazil via the interconnection.

Uruguay is aiming for 90% renewables this year. The country already has 1,500MW of hydroelectric power in place already. About 45% of its electricity comes from hydro and 15% from biomass. The remaining 30% is expected to be generated by wind.

While wind projects are in the pipeline, the sharing of power will help both Uruguay and Brazil to strengthen energy supplies.