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Sustainable development policies

Brazil: Football and biogas

10.06.2014
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Brazil, the most successful soccer nation, has won the World Cup in soccer five times. This year the country will serve as the host for the FIFA World Cup for the second time after 1950. Most of us are familiar with the names of the most prominent players such as Pelé, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. But did you know that Brazil is also a pioneer in the field of renewable energies?

In 2008, this aspiring developing country already derived about 85% of its electricity from alternative energy sources. Most of it continues to be from the world’s largest hydroelectric power stations. Pollutive emissions from Brazil’s electricity generation are relatively low. Moreover, Brazil is one of the most progressive energy markets in the world when it comes to biomass. Biofuels are produced from sugar cane and its by-products.

Nevertheless, Brazil ranks a sad fourth in the world when it comes to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions which it generates. The huge agricultural sector makes a massive contribution to this. The agricultural sector is an international trailblazer and already produces energy with the help of biogas plants. However, this is still being used mainly for electricity and for cooking and heating purposes. Most of the biogas continues to be unused and is simply burned for lack of other possible uses.

This is precisely what we are focusing on with our project Ox. We designed the biogas-driven small tractor with the aim of making a low-cost labor vehicle available to small farmers in developing and emerging markets. This vehicle would increase their productivity and open up new perspectives for them to carve out a living for themselves – but in a sustainable manner. This working device now serves as the cornerstone of a comprehensive overall strategy in our pilot region in Brazil which we are implementing together with our Brazilian partners i.e. the development of biogas-based decentralized energy and mobility solutions along with the build-up of a corresponding infrastructure.

Together with our Brazilian partners, we take the mass quantities of biogenic waste materials available from Brazil’s agricultural sector and recycle it in a meaningful way, thus avoiding the environmental pollution of the groundwater by animal manure as well as the greenhouse gases which would end up in the Earth’s atmosphere. By converting the entire system of rural mobility, we establish a basis for using biogas as fuel. The competitiveness of rural regions is enhanced by our project due to the lower mobility and transport costs, not to mention the positive ecological and resource-saving effects of biogas-based mobility.

For us Brazil as a high growth pilot region is interesting above and beyond the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games. Today the world’s sixth largest economy is the leading supplier of agricultural products. Naturally a large amount of biogenic waste is produced along the agricultural value chain as the basis for generating biogas. Agricultural goods such as coffee, soy, sugar cane, oranges, corn and beef have to be transported over large distances without a functioning railway network – and this must be done against the backdrop of high diesel costs, which small farmers can hardly afford or not afford at all. For this reason, we are working together with important local institutions such as the Austrian Embassy, UNIDO, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and international industrial partners to help people in rural areas to gain greater decentralized autonomy and energy independence.

You can find initial information on our pilot project in Brazil here >