How Energy Systems Catapult came to work with Minas Gerais?
By Andrew Pease, Technology Acceleration Manager
Just north and inland from Brazil’s two most populous cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, lies the landlocked state of Minas Gerais. The second-largest territory by population (21.3 million) and fourth-largest by area, Minas Gerais is a big producer of agricultural commodities including coffee grains and milk.
It is also the gateway to some of the countries most important rivers and highest peaks, making it home to many hydro-electric power stations, in addition to wind and solar farms.
However, this large generation capacity is also matched by soaring demand from industrial and domestic consumers. With a large and increasingly congested network of overhead transmission serving a wide range of industries, including electronics manufacture, automotive and mining – including iron ore and manganese – Minas Gerais creates 8.3% of Brazil’s GDP.
So it was with some delight that the British Embassy in Brazil approached Energy Systems Catapult to deliver a series of three workshops with key stakeholders from the state, starting in March 2021. This followed Minas Gerais becoming the first Brazilian State to sign an MoU with the UK Government to collaborate on their decarbonisation and energy transition strategies on the road to COP26.
Leveraging the Catapult’s broad expertise of energy systems, market development, policy and consumer behaviour, the goal was to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges they face, ahead of creating their energy transition strategy.
Taking the lead
A forward-looking state, Minas Gerais is looking to support innovation and growth of low emission technologies, not only to support its own goals for Net Zero but to lead technical and economic development that can be exported to other regions that are looking to develop their own energy transition.
These workshops were designed to engage key stakeholders in Minas Gerais. They were attended by the State Secretariat for Environment & Sustainable Development (FEAM), Secretariat for Economic Development (SEDE), State Secretariat of Finance, Investment & Trade Promotion Agency, State Research Support Foundation, Minas Gerais’ Development Bank and CEMIG – Minas Gerais Utility Provider.
These events covered a range of topics key to supporting the state’s decarbonisation goals and were delivered by a range of experts from Energy Systems Catapult. Designed to further the conversation between the UK and Minas Gerais they were designed to facilitate knowledge sharing of ongoing activities and aspirations to achieve Net Zero.
“The race to net zero is a global challenge and Energy Systems Catapult wants to help everyone reach the finish line. By the Catapult and Minas Gerais sharing our combined knowledge and experience all sides benefit from a clearer understanding of the net zero challenge and how to meet it.”
Paul Jordan – Energy Launchpad business lead
The first workshop focused on net zero carbon policy and the range of options available to both public and private actors within the energy sector. Key areas of focus included the ability for state government to work within national policy to support net zero goals and the roles of development banks in supporting innovation of new technologies and the supply chain needed for them to prosper.
The second workshop looked at energy system modelling and technology insight. Exploring the impact of customer behaviour on modelling outputs and the importance of understanding the market viability of technologies resulted in a lively conversation of balancing “picking winners” vs allowing the market and consumers to identify the most promising ones.
Finally, the workshops wrapped up with a discussion on Innovation Support and growing new technology and business models within the energy sector. Starting with a discussion of how Energy Launchpad currently works with a range of innovators with its Universal platform to the more targeted needs-based Accelerator programme a key need and goal was identified to reach and support the smaller innovators within Minas Gerais, a challenge many in the energy sector are facing. Listening to the work currently ongoing at FEAM and SEDE there is already significant effort in this area within Minas Gerais but also opportunity for those key actors to work with organisations such as the Catapult to nurture and grow their smaller innovators.
By engaging with Minas Gerais, Energy Systems Catapult has been able to discuss directly with policy and state government officials that are actively working to deliver their own energy transition, support innovators as part of their decarbonisation programme. Through these workshops and future work currently in planning, the Catapult aims to support the demand for energy system innovation in Minas Gerais by identifying core innovation opportunities for Net Zero and enabling UK and Brazilian innovators to work together to provide the energy solutions of the future.