The role of the Business Sector in restraining environmental impact and in combating climate change is essential. It is the actor with the greatest influence on other spheres of society, contributing directly to sustainability, and in the search for a more efficient future and renewable energy. In an interview with BIOMAIS, Marina Grossi, Economist and President of the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (Cebds), reflects on the role of the Sector and how the union of the business world with Government is essential to the development of the Country. Check the interview!
How did the Cebds Leadership Council come about?
We always had informal meetings amongst CEOs. And before the last election campaign, we thought our proposals needed to be taken to the candidates. We decided that we had to put forward some criteria for politicians so that we could talk with society, decide which proposals could be replicated, and would contribute to sustainability and lead to greater competitiveness for the Country. Based on these three criteria, we held conversations and arrived at 22 proposals. The goal was that the Business Sector would engage in dialogue with top Government Sector officials in a timely and effective way.
What was the final intention?
We believe that the challenge that we have ahead of us, especially as to the issue of sustainability, cannot be conceived only through the business world, or by the Government or even just by society. You need to have everybody in sync. Our intention is to have a work plan, execute it, disclose the costs and demonstrate why it needs to be carried out; something completely feasible, how it would work within a company. They are not generic proposals, it is really necessary to build a new agenda for Brazil.
In 2016, far ranging agreements were ratified inherent on sustainability. How do you intend to act at this very specific moment?
To implement them, there needs to be large projects, and firstly, you need to see, along with the Government, what the legal barriers are and what can be done to put them into practice. Our part is to show the cost of doing this, result of planning, but rather because we had abundant natural resources, favorable situations, so it ended up happening. In the overall setting, as we have several factors inherent in sustainability, a rich biodiversity and an absurd solar incidence, we have ended up building a favorable scenario. Anyway, everything happened due to a combination of facts, not due toplanning. That’s why we want everything to be planned from the beginning. The gains are much larger when planned than when simply let to happen.
What is the potential for electric energy conservation in Brazil and what are the necessary measures to overcome the barriers that exist today and achieve satisfactory conservation levels in Brazil?
There is a difficulty in calculating the total potential, not least of all because there is a need to update the data. We believe in a 20% potential. But, there are other researchers, who say that this potential could be up to 40%. There are many energy measures that are simple to take. For example, a change of habit at home: removing the plug from the socket for equipment that is on stand-by. There are very simple low cost actions with a good return on investment. Some of the barriers identified are simply behavioral. For other more complex measures, as for example, the exchanging of electric motors in an industrial operation for more efficient versions is caught up in budget issues or other structural impediments, and to overcome some of these barriers, we propose several measures that the Government could take, such as the establishment of compulsory minimum energy efficiency levels for equipment; today minimum energy efficiency levels are required for very few machines. So, we should act accordingly.
What factors inhibit investments in energy generation from renewable sources, such as from small hydropower plants, wind farms and photovoltaic power stations?
Today, financing is very much focused on public financing. In the case of photovoltaic power stations, Brazilian industry didn’t succeed in getting the timing right as to producing these panels. As to wind, that was not a problem, but for photovoltaic it was. Solar thermal technology exists, and Brazil has a large potential for its exploitation, but there still no photovoltaic power stations. As to distributed generation, there is an important financing barrier, because there are no specific lines available to a consumer who wants, for example, put solar panels on his home.
What are the solutions for reducing the risks of investment in alternative energy generation as to the financial, regulatory and market aspects?
We have several proposals in this sense. There is a niche of external funding. To access them, there is a need to reduce the currency risk. This is where our proposal for a public currency hedge comes in to play. In the regulatory sphere, there is a need to insert these wind power sources into the power matrix with a guarantee for distributed generation so that the surplus energy generated can be sold to the net, and this must go through a much-needed regulatory change.
The creation of specific fundin lines would be one way to decrease risks, after all they provide more secure and favorable conditions for investment.