Co-operative boosts rural economy with hydro-power
29 May 2008
The world’s leading green energy prize announced that Cooperativa Regional de Electrificação Rural do Alto Uruguai Ltda (CRERAL), a regional electrification co-operative operating in Erechim, South Brazil, is one of the pioneering renewable energy projects from Africa, Asia and Latin America that will receive a prize of up to £20,000. CRERAL will compete to be the Ashden Awards’ Energy Champion, with prize money of up to £40,000; the Champion will be revealed at a ceremony in London in June.
Tired of limited electricity supply, members of CRERAL, a regional electrification co-operative, decided to invest in two local mini-hydro-electric plants instead of buying all their electricity from large hydro and fossil-fuelled plants elsewhere. 6,300 mainly rural customers now have increased energy supply and improved reliability through the plants, which produce about 5.5 GWh/year electricity – 25 per cent of the co-operative’s overall demand.
CRERAL’s run-of-the river hydro schemes do not need large reservoirs, and therefore have minimal environmental impact. The schemes are funded on a commercial basis, through electricity sales and carbon credits, and loans will be paid back within three to four years. With electricity demand growing by six percent a year, CRERAL is planning several more mini-hydro plants in partnership with other cooperatives and private developers, in order to supply 100 per cent of its current demand.
With a larger and more reliable supply of electricity, local small farmers have been able to install new agricultural equipment such as milking machines, freezers and refrigerators, which have boosted their sales of milk, cheese and meat and increased incomes significantly. Families can also buy appliances for their homes – labour-saving equipment like washing machines, irons and sewing machines which mean they have more time to spend on income generating and leisure activities.
Members of the co-operative of all ages are enthusiastic about their new and reliable power supply. Leonilda Rigo, a 72-year-old grandmother said:
“I used to have to wash by hand – now we’ve all got washing machines!”
Farmer Alceu Kampigotto said:
“It’s much better now that I can rely on the fridge. I can store the milk till the tanker comes. I had the fridge before, but you never knew for certain if there’d be power or not. If the power was out, you’d still have to milk the cows, but your work would literally go down the drain.”
Source: Ashen Awards – www.ashenawards.org