Belo Monte HPP: Power Generation and Sustainable Development to Support Growth in Brazil

Publication Date: 02/26/2021 07:00

Contributing to power generation in Brazil and the sustainable development of the area where it is deployed, in the southeastern region of the state of Pará. This is a commitment undertaken by the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Power Plant, which, with its 11,233.1 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, is the largest 100% Brazilian hydroelectric plant.  Built on the Xingu River, the Plant features 8 Turbines (UGs) at 611.11 MW of power each in its Main Powerhouse, which are added to the 6 UGs in the Supplementary Powerhouse, at 38.85 MW each, and, through the National Interconnected System (SIN), generates clean and sustainable energy for the entire country.
The three million cubic feet of concrete and over 160,000 tons of steel used to bring this power sector giant to life are the equivalent of building 37 Maracanã stadiums and 22 Eiffel Towers. Investments in the social and environmental aspects are equally as impressive. Approximately R$ 6.3 billion was employed in over 5,000 actions executed in the project’s neighboring cities, including 78 education projects (construction, remodeling and expansion of educational units, training, and furniture donations) and the construction and equipping of 31 Basic Healthcare Units (UBSs), in addition to three new hospitals to expand service to the population surrounding the Plant.
All of these actions fall under the Basic Environmental Project (PBA), linked to the project’s deployment. The document comprises 117 programs and projects focused on the development and quality of life of the communities in the region, as well as environmental conservation and the broadening of scientific knowledge on the Amazon. As for volume of actions performed, Belo Monte is already considered the largest environmental licensing process to ever have been monitored by the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama). 
Quality of life
Altamira, the most populous city near the hydroelectric power plant, received the largest investments – approximately R$ 1.5 billion. The expansion of the water supply system, construction of the waste sanitation system and the connection of 19,000 homes to a modern sanitation network greatly contributed to the quality of life of its residents.
Several urban requalification interventions were performed. In addition to the revitalization of the Ernesto Aciolly highway, the main access to the city for those travelling on BR-230 (Transamazônica highway), Norte Energia built eight bridges and two footbridges for cyclists and pedestrians, in addition to paving and signage for the roads. The city’s shoreline also gained a permanent beach and the Integrated Artisanal Fishing Center (CIPAR), which includes a fish market and other activities linked to the fishing industry.
In the five neighborhoods built by the company in the urban area of Altamira, the Collective Urban Resettlements (RUCs), approximately 3,800 families that were previously living in stilt houses now live in safe 63-square-meter (m2) homes on 300-square-meter (m2) lots. A sixth resettlement was completed in 2019, and is ready to receive indigenous and fishermen's families.
With the support of Norte Energia, the city also gained a park measuring approximately 940 acres, located along the Altamira, Ambé and Panelas streams – areas that were previously occupied by unregulated stilt house communities and received sewage without any type of treatment.
Support for public policies
Investments made to contribute to public policies developed in the region are also significant. Norte Energia finances, for example, the Malaria Control Action Program (PACM) that, in partnership with the state and cities, reduced the cases of the disease by 96% in Altamira, Anapu, Brasil Novo, Senador José Porfírio and Vitória do Xingu. The financial contribution made to the Program by the company has already reached R$ 54 million in actions scheduled to be performed until 2020.
The program reached an unprecedented milestone in 2017. For the first time in the region’s history, no case of locally transmitted malaria was registered in the five cities included in the PACM for two consecutive months (November and December). Previously, the same locations identified almost 6,000 cases per year.
In the public safety area, an agreement totaling R$ 125 million with the government of Pará reverted these funds back as equipment such as the video monitoring camera system installed in Altamira, vehicles and a helicopter, in addition to the construction of a Correctional Facility in Vitória do Xingu, among other investments that look to strengthen the public safety structure.
It is also important to highlight the support for strengthening municipal management provided to the five cities surrounding the Plant, as well as the assistance in compliance with environmental legislation through the deployment of sanitary landfills and the adoption of good environmental practices – initiatives that drive the cities toward a more sustainable future.  But none of this would be feasible without the efforts focused on environmental education in the communities. To that end, one of Belo Monte’s major merits was the creation of the Xingu Regional Environmental Education Center (CREAX).
One of the commitments made by Norte Energia in the region is the Financial Compensation for the Use of Water Resources (CFURH), collected by the National Energy Agency (Aneel) and distributed by the Brazilian National Treasury Secretary. Since 2016, compensation to the municipalities covered by the Belo Monte reservoirs (Altamira, Brasil Novo and Vitória do Xingu), as well as to the State Government, has surpassed R$ 251 million.
Environment and incentives for scientific research
In the environmental area, actions developed by Belo Monte have fostered the broadening of technical-scientific knowledge on the Amazon’s biodiversity, especially that of the Xingu River.
During the Plant’s deployment, two laboratories were installed on the campus of the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) in Altamira, which accredited the institution to become a reference center for ichthyofauna in the lower and middle Xingu and aquaculture of ornamental fish in the Northern region.  The unprecedented reproduction in captivity in Brazil of a fish species endemic to the region and considered endangered was recorded in one of these laboratories: the zebra pleco.
In the last seven years, around 4 million baby Arrau turtles, six-tubercled Amazon River turtles and yellow-spotted Amazon River turtles have been released into the wild. This is the result of actions to preserve this species at one of its main reproduction sites, Tabuleiro do Embaubal, where about 20 reproductive areas used to lay the species’ eggs are monitored, in addition to over 90 reproductive sites in Volta Grande do Xingu, where Norte Energia also develops preservation actions.
In terms of conserving the flora, Norte Energia set up a seed bank throughout the deployment of the project, from native species of trees, selected and collected prior to the formation of the reservoirs and the area around the Plant. The material is now used as a basis to produce scientific knowledge in national and international institutions.
The efforts to conserve the biodiversity also include a 26,000-hectare Permanent Preservation Area (APP) surrounding the reservoirs and the Deviation Channel that connects the reservoirs to the hydroelectric plant – of which about 5,000 hectares will receive actions to recover plant coverage, through the production and planting of millions of tree seedlings.
Commitment to the indigenous communities
Around 4,000 indigenous people of nine ethnicities that inhabit 12 territories (11 Indigenous Lands and one Indigenous Area) are supported by a set of programs and projects that make up the Basic Environmental Plan – Indigenous Component (PBA-CI). Through this Plan, Norte Energia performs actions and supports public policies focused on the indigenous communities in articulation with agencies and institutions operating in the region under the influence of the project.
In the education area, for example, one of the actions carried out under the PBA-CI was the construction of indigenous schools. As of now, 19 have already been built and two are underway. In the healthcare area, 31 Basic Indigenous Healthcare Units were built, equipped and transferred to the Special Indigenous Health District of Altamira/PA (DSEI) and equipment and vehicles were provided to the public health agencies that work with the indigenous population in the region.
Also regarding public policy support, it is worth mentioning the construction of eight Territorial Protection Units (UPTs) set forth in the Cooperation Agreement between Norte Energia and the National Indian Foundation (Funai). Three more Units will be built in the region’s indigenous lands.
It is also important to highlight the construction of 518 kilometers of highways and access roads to the communities, 16 runways and 31 water supply systems, as well as the execution of projects focused on technical assistance, income generation and subsistence for the families; institutional strengthening of the indigenous associations; training and qualification of the indigenous population in the areas of healthcare and school education; territorial management workshops; among other actions.
Belo Monte – History

Using the Xingu River to generate power has been widely discussed by the Brazilian society for about four decades. Proposals have been presented throughout this period to representatives of the local populations, the scientific community, environmental organizations, and all levels of the government. This process led to a project designed to have the least possible social and environmental impact.
One of the consequences of this dialogue was the flooded area being reduced by over 60% (if compared to the original proposal) – thus avoiding the flooding of areas occupied by indigenous populations –, as well as the scope of the social and environmental actions that should be performed under the PBA and PBA-CI.
These are initiatives that demonstrate the commitment of Norte Energia and the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Power Plant to the generation of energy for Brazil, quality of life for the communities surrounding the project, the region’s sustainable development and compliance with current environmental legislation.
Norte Energia
The deployment and operation of the Belo Monte HPP is performed by Norte Energia, a Special Purpose Entity (SPE) established after the concession of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Power Plant, auctioned by the National Energy Agency (Aneel) on April 20, 2010.