From the favelas: the rise of rooftop solar projects in Brazil

Heriberto Araújo – The Guardian, 05/24/2016

Sunny days have long been considered a competitive advantage for Brazil. Before the 2014 World Cup, the country’s tourist board set up a website allowing visitors to compare the number of sunny days in US and European capitals to cities in Brazil (eg Brussels 103, Rio de Janeiro 212). But while tourism may have been capitalising on the sunshine, the solar industry has not.

According to statistics from the Brazilian electricity regulatory agency, Aneel, solar accounts for just 0.02% of the country’s energy. The bulk of the country’s energy generation (70%) is from hydropower.

However, while demand for energy is increasing, multi-year droughts andwidespread blackouts have created serious concerns about energy security for millions of businesses and homes. Despite a traditional lack of support (unlike Europe, China and the US, Brazil has not implemented feed-in tariffs or tax breaks), the government is now making efforts to diversify (pdf) the country’s energy mix with recent public auctions for solar and wind. Its 10-year energy plan released in 2014 estimates that 7GW of solar projects will be installed by 2024, making up 3.3% of Brazil’s energy mix.

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Corruption is not new to Brazil, so why is it threatening the presidency now?

Ryan E. Carlin, Gregory J. Love and Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo – The Washington Post, 05/05/2016

Ronald Reagan was famously called “the Teflon president” for his ability to deflect scandals that might have sunk his popularity. So why couldn’t Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tap into this same protection?

Following the lower house’s overwhelming vote on April 17 to impeach Rousseff, Brazil’s government sits on the brink of collapse. An onslaught of corruption charges against the president and her Workers Party (PT) has emboldened her political opponents. In response to allegations of an elaborate kickback scheme that funneled bribes to politicians via the state-run oil firm, Petrobras, Brazil’s elites — including the government’s largest coalition partner, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) — and the public have abandoned Rousseff’s government. Her approval stands at a historically low 9 to 10 percent.

Media coverage of these scandals has been scathing and unrelenting. Yet high-level corruption is hardly new in Brazil. In fact, Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, also from the PT, was himself at the center of several scandals. In 2005, the expansive mensalão investigation of PT payoffs for legislative support threatened to derail his bid for reelection. And yet Lula proved to be a Teflon president and cruised to an easy victory in 2006 — and then helped his chosen successor win the presidency in 2010.

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Brazil’s Vice President, Michel Temer, won’t face inquiry over Petrobras

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/03/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s vice president, Michel Temer, who is preparing to take control of the country’s embattled government as early as next week, will not face an investigation over testimony implicating him in the colossal graft scandal engulfing Petrobras, the national oil company, federal investigators said Tuesday.

Rodrigo Janot, the prosecutor general, determined that the accusations against Mr. Temer were not substantial enough at this point to merit an inquiry, according to a spokeswoman for Mr. Janot’s office in the capital, Brasília. Mr. Temer, 75, has been maneuvering to replace President Dilma Rousseff if the Senate votes next week to suspend her and put her on trial.

The decision bolsters Mr. Temer’s standing at a critical juncture when powerful figures across Brazil’s political class are battling accusations of corruption and abuse of power, including various top allies that Mr. Temer is considering for cabinet posts as well as officials in Ms. Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party.

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Understanding the political crisis in Brazil

Lisa Desjardins, Paulo Sotero, Uri Friedman, Monica de Bolle and Brian Winter – NPR, 05/03/16

Last month in Brazil, the lower house of the country’s National Congress voted to impeach the president, Dilma Rousseff. There are the legal grounds for the move — alleged cooking of the government books. And then there are the political motives, which as many observers have pointed out, are what’s really driving the impeachment. Those have to do with a massive corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state owned oil company. Add to that a severe recession, and many Brazilians are not happy with how their country is being run. Guest host Lisa Desjardins gets an update on the political crisis in Brazil from our panel of guests.

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Petrobras boomtown turns desolate as refinery’s billions vanish

Sabrina Valle and Carlos Caminada – Yahoo Business, 05/04/2016

Located just 30 miles east of Rio de Janeiro’s bustling Copacabana beach, Itaborai looks like many oil boomtowns after the bust — except the deserted stores and empty glass towers that loom over this town of 220,000 speak of some bigger cataclysm than the collapse of crude prices.

“They said this would be the new oil city,” says Jefferson Costa, one of scores of migrants from Brazil’s impoverished north lured here by a multibillion-dollar petrochemical project that was supposed to create more than 100,000 jobs. Work on the complex, known as Comperj, has stopped, and unless new investors materialize, the single refinery now standing may never produce a single drop of fuel. “It’s empty inside,” says Costa, a plumber who lost his job six months ago when construction came to a halt. “People say it will become a large warehouse.”

Comperj has become a symbol of pervasive corruption at Brazil’s state-run oil producer, Petrobras. A sprawling investigation by federal police and prosecutors dubbed Operation Carwash has revealed massive graft, implicating construction conglomerates, banks, oil service providers, shipbuilders and politicians. About 2 percentage points of the 3.8 percent contraction in Brazil’s gross domestic product last year can be attributed to the effects of the scandal on the company and its suppliers, according to estimates from Tendencias, a consulting firm based in Sao Paulo.

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Petrobras scandal

Paulo Sotero – The Editors of Encylocpædia Britannica

Petrobras scandal, Brazilian political corruption scandal beginning in 2014 that involved the indictment of dozens of high-level business people and politicians as part of a widespread investigation alleging that many millions of dollars had been kicked back to officials of Petrobras, Brazil’s huge majority-state-owned oil company, and to politicians—especially members of the ruling Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores; PT) of Pres. Dilma Rousseff—by prominent Brazilian corporations in return for contracts with Petrobras.

The malfeasance was revealed by a federal investigation begun in 2014 under the code name Lava Jato (“Car Wash”). The massive scheme to defraud Petrobras—Brazil’s largest enterprise and a symbol of the country’s entrenched economic nationalism—did not fully come to light, however, until after the narrow reelection of President Rousseff on October 26, 2014. By the time of her second inauguration, on January 1, 2015, Rousseff’s approval rating had collapsed to 14 percent, with some two-thirds of Brazilians blaming her for Petrobras’s troubles.

Dubbed “Petrolão”—after mensalão (“big monthly bribe”), the vote-buying scandal that had plagued the government of Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (better known simply as “Lula”)—the episode came to be viewed as the largest corruption scandal in Brazilian history. By June 2015 a massive scheme to defraud Petrobras on contracts to develop the so-called pre-salt oil reserves found offshore in 2007 had appeared on investigators’ radar. Moreover, reports suggested that federal prosecutors were also looking into the electricity-generating sector, pension funds for employees of state-owned companies, and the National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES). The latter had provided billions of dollars in subsidized financing to Petrobras and other “national champions,” such as billionaire Eike Batista, whose wealth plummeted spectacularly in 2013.

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Dilma Rousseff, facing impeachment in Brazil, has alienated many allies

Andrew Jacobs – The New York Times, 05/01/2016

BRASÍLIA — They were idealists, united in the struggle against Brazil’s military dictators.

As democracy flourished, so did their careers. One of them, Paulo Ziulkoski, became the leader of an association of Brazilian cities. The other, Dilma Rousseff, rose even higher, becoming the president of Latin America’s largest country.

But their friendship soon fell apart. During a contentious meeting with the nation’s mayors in 2012, Ms. Rousseff rejected pleas for a share of Brazil’s soaring oil revenues. After the room erupted in jeers, Mr. Ziulkoski said, she stormed up to him, poked a finger in his face and humiliated him with a string of expletives.

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