The Fossilization of the Brazilian Electric Matrix Under the Lifecycle Assessment Perspective

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The increasing participation of fossil fuel thermoelectric plants in the Brazilian electricity grid in the past few years has led to a worsening of its environmental impact, a correlation made evident by data on CO2 emissions divulged by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação, MCTI) for the National Interconnected System since 2006. Moreover, the environmental concerns are often limited to quantifying the emissions so as to inform the country’s energy planning.

The present study assesses the environmental impact of the Brazilian electricity grid during the period 2006-2013 in order to verify the environmental effects of the use of different sources in terms of Climate Change (CC), Consumption of Primary Energy (CPE), Freshwater Eutrophication (FEu), Terrestrial Acidification (TAc), Agricultural Land Occupation (ALO), and Natural Land Transformation (NLT). It was also made a comparison between CO2 emission data divulged by MCTI — who quantifies only the burning of fossil fuel — and greenhouse gases emission (GHG) inside the Life Cycle Thinking model.

The results show an increase in the environmental impact in almost all categories. In FEu, the 2009 impact was only 46% when compared to 2013; for TAc, 2009 emissions were 53% when compared to 2013. In face of the LCT model, the emission data divulged by MCTI are revealed to be underreported. The results of both cases, however, are compatible in terms of variation trends. It is concluded that a systemic approach of the environmental impact of electricity generation would bring more subsidies for a more efficient energy planning.

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