Power rates to soar in Rio de Janeiro as drought continues hampering Brazil's hydroelectric power market

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The cost of electricity in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state could climb drastically as the country's prolonged drought continues, according to data released by power regulator Agencia National de Energia Eletricqa (Aneel) earlier this week.

Light S.A., a utility located within the state, said it plans to raise its high tension tariffs 19.46% and its low tension rates to 19.11% -- a change that will impact more than 3.7 million customers across Rio de Janeiro beginning later this week.

HydroWorld.com reported earlier this month that Brazil's ongoing drought is one of the most severe in the South American nation's history, causing reservoirs in some areas to dip to below 10% their normal capacity.

The situation has forced Brazilian power operators -- who generate more than 70% of their energy from hydroelectric resources, according to the country's Ministry of Mines and Energy -- to rely heavily on more expensive generating sources like biomass, coal and natural gas.

Some analysts said in July that Brazil's hydropower plants could face a total shutdown by the end of the year should measures not be taken to decrease consumption.

Operators had said they were hoping an El Nino weather system would help refill the country's reservoirs, though the pattern -- which only occurs every two to seven years in warmer-than-average years -- has yet to materialize. However, experts with Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said conditions in the Pacific Ocean could create a "weak to moderate event" by the end of the year.

For more news from South America, visit here.

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