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Energy Hungry Brazil to Spend US$ 15 Billion for 5 New Hydroelectric Plants

Brazilian hydroelectric of TucuruÀ­ Energy-short Brazil needs to increase its power capacity by 50% in a decade, so the Brazilian government together with Peru are considering five hydroelectric projects that would cost as much as US$ 15 billion, revealed Brazilian Energy Minister Edison Lobão.

Peru may consume 20% of the electricity from the dams and ship the rest to Brazil, Lobão told reporters Friday in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil and Peru aim to start operating the dams, which could generate 6,000 megawatts, in 2015, he said.

"We need to have energy, to ensure Brazil's energy security," Lobão said. "Whatever exceeds Peruvian needs will be exported to Brazil, which may re-ship the energy to other neighboring countries."

Brazil is expanding its electricity grid to link jungle dams to industrial centers and reduce costly diesel-fuel generation.

Last March Lobão revealed that Brazil needs to boost its generating capacity by 50% percent in 10 years to 150,000 megawatts.

Brazilian government controlled Eletrobrás and its Peruvian counterpart Electricidad del Peru may form a joint power company, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said in April.

Uruguay Connection

The Uruguayan ruling coalition presidential candidate Jose Mujica said the Brazilian president promised to help speed power inter-connection between the two neighboring countries, in the framework of Mercosur, in spite of Argentina's non supportive attitude. He also underlined Mercosur depends on Brazil's willingness.

Mujica and his ticket companion Danilo Astori spent two days in Brazilian capital Brasí­lia where they met with government officials, party leaders and businessmen, which culminated Thursday with an hour long exchange with Lula.

The Uruguayan presidential hopeful said there's "much tension" in electricity issues in Mercosur but Lula promised to help solve them and is willing to finance the project to establish a 500 MW line to ensure a normal supply of power. Similarly with a project to build water reserves to help agriculture and livestock breeding in summer months, apparently a successful experience in Brazil.

"The project has been stalled for over two years and this has become critical for Uruguay particularly because of the energy shortage. We're talking of a 500 MW line and a conversion plant, but Argentina is blocking the loan from Mercosur Structural Convergence Fund," said Mujica.

However the Uruguayan presidential candidate was careful not to be misunderstood by Argentina and anticipated that if elected, he would try by all means to overcome the conflict involving the Botnia pulp mill which has soured bilateral relations.

"I will show the utmost patience and we are going to reach a deal with Argentina, because it's critical for us. But we're not going to agree yelling at each other but rather as good gentlemen in good spirit. My dear friends must understand that the pulp mill is not aggressive to the environment. Argentina must understand it," he emphasized.

Mujica further on said there was a "more enlightened vision" of Mercosur, and bilateral paths can be forged instead of waiting for "the perfection of a Mercosur agreement." He added that "I believe that if this can be achieved we will have an inflexion point, a significant change which opens a new possibility."

"Sometimes the facts of life are stronger than what we can propose, but there are ways to move forward."

Emphasizing on Brazil's preponderance and leadership, Mujica said that Mercosur "will move ahead if Brazil pulls for it and makes it work, if not, it won't work." He also revealed that Brazil expects the whole block to join in the signing of an agreement with China.

On the light side of the meeting the Uruguayan presidential candidate and Lula talked about football and the traditional rivalry between both countries. The Brazilian president was presented with the Uruguayan colors signed by one of the surviving players of the 1950 World Cup which was won by Uruguay in Rio's Maracanã stadium in 1950.

The possibility of a charity match with superstars to collect funds for aging homeless soccer players was also on the table.

"He's the most charming of all South American presidents I've come across," said Mujica following the meeting with Lula. He also announced a similar visit to Chile and meeting with President Michelle Bachelet, "another practical Socialist," in the coming weeks.

Mercopress

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