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Cora Dickson is a Senior International Trade Specialist in ITA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.
At the end of April, I accompanied the certified trade mission “Export Green: Brazil – Energy and Environment” to Brazil. This was the second trade mission for Export Green, ITA’s partner under the Market Development Cooperator Program. Last year, participating companies went to São Paulo and Rio; this year, Export Green tried a different approach and offered more options to the 13 participating companies, based on their needs and prospects. As a result, we ended up with three distinct groups with overlapping itineraries: São Paulo/Rio/Recife, São Paulo/Recife, and São Paulo/Rio.
Our Commercial Service presence in the northeast city of Recife has been augmented in recent months, due to increasing trade opportunities in the region, with growth between 4 and 4.5 percent. Our group was in fact the first “official” U.S. government-sponsored trade mission to Recife and the staff was determined to help the companies make business connections. Delegates met with Brazilian companies in a “speed dating” style, with as many as 12 meetings in four straight hours. All told, 102 meetings took place, and 46 local companies came to meet the U.S. delegation.
Another great feature of our trade mission was the “Solar Program” designed for the three participating companies from the solar sector. I accompanied them to Rio as we met with five Brazilian entities that are building, or are considering building, large-scale solar projects. Brazil is at a critical juncture in promoting solar energy. Despite the more than adequate supply of sun, solar is one of the few renewable energy sectors where Brazil lacks deployment and expertise. The country however is very strong in hydropower, biomass, and recently wind power.
Just the week before, Brazil’s electricity regulator ANEEL had announced two important new solar policies: “net metering,” making it possible to sell excess power back to the grid, and an 80% tax break for solar plants up to 30MW. These new regulations were frequently cited during meetings with these companies, giving us the strong impression that there could not have been a better time for the U.S. solar industry to be exploring opportunities in Brazil.