The Brazilian Waste to Energy Market: Energising Waste Opportunities

The Brazilian Waste to Energy Market: Energising Waste Opportunities

By Yuri Schmitke A. Belchior Tisi (pictured), president of the Brazilian Association for Energy Recovery from Waste (ABREN), Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council (WtERT Brazil); and Flavio Matos, advisor of ABREN, WtERT Brazil. 

With legislation now in place enabling to direct waste from landfill to waste treatment, Brazil is looking at developing a number of energy from waste plants around key cities and with 36 mtpa required to be diverted from dumps or landfills by 2024, this is a sizeable potential market.

The country's new scenario, comprised primarily by the Brazilian recently enacted Sanitation Law and the launching of the first waste to energy auction by the government, definitely paves the way for the massive transition for a wishful WTE future in the country, addressing the country's major environmental problem of endless waste being piled up in dumps and landfills.

In short, the Brazilian Sanitation law brings forth at least two structural changes in the country's market where proper waste management and WTE investment are concerned. Firstly, the regulation enables waste treatment to be charged with the consumer's water bill. Secondly, contractors will entertain a new class of contract altogether with the public authorities aiming at rendering sanitation services - waste treatment inclusive - one to be designed in much more substantive and transparent fashions, entailing long term 30 years contracts derived from public biddings, instead of the previous short term five years contracts mostly signed under direct and often unassertive negotiations with a local relevant authority. 

These regulation changes affect investments in WTE field in Brazil mostly with regard to the securitisation of upfront investments via the direct charge for the service in the water/waste consumer's bill capped with the longer term contracts in which these services will be unfold within a clear and certain framework and timeline, conferring a whole new degree of certitude for domestic and international investors.

Following such central regulation benchmark, the Brazilian government launched in December 2020 the first waste to energy auction to be implemented in the second semester of 2021, a major breakthrough into the definitive WTE market opening in the country.

Furthermore, the public consultation for the first National Waste Management Plan has just been concluded and should be published soon. The preliminary version published indicated the target of complete elimination of dumps in Brazil by 2024, besides of determining targets for recycling, landfill diversion and energy recovery from MSW trough thermal treatment and Anaerobic Digestion. Considering only the diversion from dumps (40% of total generated in the country) that should be shut down by 2024 there would be a need to address the equivalent of all waste generated in France, while almost 600 of MWe are targeted by the plan, of which 544 MWe from thermal treatment.

Considering the 28 metropolitan regions in the country with a population of over 1 million inhabitants, and at least 35 local municipalities with a population above 600 thousand inhabitants, the country has the potential to install 250 WTE power plants, able to respond to at least 6.4% of Brazil's energy demands, with CAPEX investments of BRL 160 billion.

That would be the size for Brazil's global WTE market investment alone today. On top of that, official data reveals that existing landfills in relevant metropolitan cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro will face exhaustion in less than three years, requiring urgent measures by local authorities to find new alternatives for their MSW.

All considered, the potential for the actual implementation of Brazil's WTE market is no longer in the future but is now becoming a reality. To date, six relevant WTE projects are in different stages of development, some of which have already obtained the environmental license.

ABREN (The Brazilian Association of Waste to Energy) is the leading cross-country association dealing with matters pertaining to Waste to Energy globally in Brazil.  ABREN also presides the WtERT Brazilian Chapter and is a member of ISWA. We are happy to help you understand the details of our domestic market and the potential for investments in specific projects, specific regions and relevant cities. Please visit our website for more information and contact details: 

For further insight from ABREN WtERT into the growth market for waste to energy in Brazil plus discussions on growth markets in Australia and Europe, book your place now at our Energy from Waste Conference, 10 - 12 March 2021:

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