Massive Blackout in Brazil: Not Enough Dams or Too Many?

In the night between November 10th and 11th, a massive power failure caused a blackout in 16 states of the Brazilian Union (out of 26), including São Paulo et Rio de Janeiro, affecting dozens of millions. The source of the blackout seems to lie in the high-tension cables coming from the Itaipu mega-dam, among the biggest hydroelectric works in the world.

photo : Armando Lobos, licence CC

Although the cause of this blackout is far from being clarified, Brazilian officials (among whom President Lula and his preferred successor) have immediately tried to present it as a justification for their policy of mega-dam development in Amazonia to ensure the country’s energetic security.

But there are serious reasons to wonder if such an incident does not illustrate, instead, the risks of relying solely on mega-dams in remote regions, which imply the transportation of electricity over thousands of kilometres, making the national electric grid all the more vulnerable.

Read the coverage of the New York Times, as well as the reactions of Brazilian bloggers, including various versions of "conspiracy theories".

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