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GDF Suez out of Brazil's Amazon dam project

With almost 1,700 employees, GDF SUEZ is a key hydroelectric player in Brazil. The Group has been operating in the country for almost 50 years and is now the leading private electricity producer, operating 21 power stations of which 13 are hydroelectric.

RIO, May 04, 2011

GDF Suez (GSZ) SA, the French energy company that operates 13 hydroelectric plants in Brazil , said it declined to participate in the country's Belo Monte dam project because the venture's risks outweighed the potential returns.

Possible setbacks on the project in Brazil's Amazon, such as environmental and construction risk, were higher than what the company could afford, Jan Flachet, chief executive officer of GDF Suez for Latin America , said in an April 29 interview.

The 25.8 billion-real ($16.4 billion) Belo Monte dam project , which will flood 516 square kilometers (199 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest, is a key policy in the Brazilian government's plan to boost power supplies. The Organization of the American States requested April 5 that Brazil suspend work on the dam, echoing protests from Avatar director James Cameron and former U.S. President Bill Clinton because of the potential environmental impact from the venture.

“It's a project that could be very good but at the time we considered that its risks were higher than what we were inclined to accept,” Flachet said. “That's why we declined.”

Rio de Janeiro-based Vale SA, the world´s largest iron ore company, said on April 28 that it agreed to buy a stake and invest about 2.3 billion reais in the project, which is set to be the world's third-biggest dam. The announcement came after the ouster of its chief executive for the past decade, Roger Agnelli , amid government criticism for supposedly not investing enough in projects in Brazil.

GDF Suez, based in Paris, started to produce from the 1,086 megawatts Estreito hydroelectric power plant last month and is working on the construction of the Jirau dam in the Northern state of Rondonia. The company is considering adding four turbines to the Jirau project to boost the power generation capacity to 3,750 megawatts from the 3,450 megawatts planned.

The company is also considering installing a floating storage and regasification unit in Colombia to have the capacity to handle liquefied natural gas and compensate for declines in the country's hydro-generated power generation, he said.

Story by Juan Pablo Spinetto from Bloomberg.

Bloomberg News / Mon May 2, 2011


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