África do Sul – Agência AllAfrica – 16/09/2009
Brasilia — Following President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s state visit to Brazil in July, a large Nigerian delegation comprising the Ministries of Power, Petroleum Resources, Foreign Affairs, Defence and the presidency met with their Brazilian counterparts in Brasilia, the administrative capital of the country, to hold discussions on areas of collaboration in key economic segments of the Nigerian economy.
At a meeting held yesterday in the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Nigerian team was given an extensive briefing on the reform programmes implemented by the country in the energy sector which facilitated the transition of their wholly state-run utilities into self-reliant, efficiently run companies that are now partly owned by the private sector.
Making the presentation on behalf of his team, the Executive Secretary, Mines and Power, Dr. Marcio Zimmermann, stated that Brazil currently has a generating capacity of slightly under 40,000 megawatts of which 90 per cent is provided by hydro-electric power sources in the country.
This, he said, translates to a per capita consumption of 2,300 per kilowatt hour per annum.
Despite the high preponderance of hydro-electric generation in the country, Zimmermann said his ministry along with Brazil’s power utility, Electrobras, which is partly owned by the state, had diversified into alternative energy sources comprising nuclear energy, biomass fuels, coal energy, wind energy and thermal energy, for sustainable development.
Giving a rundown of the reform measures implemented by Electrobras and Petrobras – the oil and gas company also partly owned by the Brazilian government – the executive secretary said that in the late 90s, his government introduced a decentralized structure in the areas of transmission, generation, distribution and a system operator.
The four components of the power sector are governed by long-term contracts or power purchase agreements between the producers – generation companies, the transmission company and distribution companies – and that the contracts see to it that costs are recovered by the operators.
In the oil and gas sector, Zimmermann said his country was forced to become self-sufficient in meeting its energy needs having learnt from the first oil crisis in the 1970s.
“At the time, we imported 80 per cent of our oil needs and when the oil embargo took place, it affected us adversely.
“In response, we invested heavily in research and drilling and by 2006, we reached self-sufficiency in the area of oil and gas production,” he said.
He stated that in the area of ethanol production for biomass fuels, about half of the country’s light weight vehicles are currently run on ethanol which is produced by companies that have invested heavily in research for better seedlings and crop yields.
The Mines and Energy Secretary indicated that the amount of land dedicated to growing crops for ethanol production is very small, as more land is dedicated to food production.
Lending more insight into the power sector reform measures undertaken by Brazil, which are not dissimilar to the reforms designed for the Nigerian power sector, Zimmermann said that the Brazilian government took into consideration the wage disparities between different sets of electricity consumers in the country.
According to him, the state implements a graduated cross-subsidised tariff structure that comprises a regulated market and a free market.
The regulated market, he disclosed, protects residential consumers, especially those in rural areas that pay less than big consumers in the free market.
The executive secretary expressed his country’s preparedness to work closely with Nigeria to pass on its experience in the power and oil and gas sectors, and would consider future investment propositions through the international operations of Petrobras and Electrobras, respectively.
Responding, Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, intimated the Brazilian delegation of the extensive reform programme about to be embarked upon in the oil and gas sector following the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
He said once the new law is enacted, this will present the best opportunity for Brazilian companies in the oil and gas sector to explore the untapped potentials of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
He said that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Petrobras had already signed a memorandum of understanding on areas of collaboration between both companies and that this would serve as spring board for Brazil companies to seek alternative energy sources in Africa.
The Minister of Power, Dr. Lanre Babalola, expressed particular interest in Brazil’s huge hydro-electric generation capacity, admitting that Nigeria’s energy potential is yet to be fully harnessed in terms of arriving at a sustainable energy mix.
He said that Nigeria’s reform programme in the power sector started as far back as 2000 but had not made appreciable progress due to a number of factors.
Babalola stated that it is the intention of the Yar’Adua administration to learn from its mistakes and take a cue from countries such as Brazil in order to bring the power reform programme to fruition.
In addition to fostering partnerships in the energy sector, the Nigerian delegation which also comprises the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ishaya Iko Ibrahim; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin; and the Chief of Policy and Planning of the Nigerian Army, Major General Abubakar Atofarati, will in addition, hold meetings with officials of Embraer Defence Industries in Rio de Janeiro later in the week on defence-related matters