For more than five years, mining company Vale (VALE3), majority shareholder of the Risoleta Neves hydroelectric plant, which operated in the region near Mariana (MG), has received monthly amounts for the generation of energy that the plant has not delivered since 2015, simply because its structure it was buried in the mud of the dam of the mining company Samarco – which has Vale itself as a partner.
The case ended up in court, where the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel) tries to stop the payment that is made to Vale. Even without generating a single watt with the plant, the company has received more than R $ 500 million since the Samarco tragedy in Mariana, as if it were working normally until today.
The Risoleta Neves hydroelectric plant belongs to the Candonga consortium, of which Vale owns 77.5% and Cemig, 22.5%. The plant stopped operating in November 2015, when Samarco was one of the biggest environmental tragedies on the planet. The hydroelectric plant was on the way to the Fundão dam, which broke and caused the death of 19 people, with the release of thousands of tons of iron ore tailings over the forest and the Doce River. The mud swept 40 municipalities, until reaching the Atlantic, on the coast of Espírito Santo.
The complete shutdown of the hydroelectric power plant led Aneel, of course, to request the suspension of payments to the Risoleta Neves plant, as it could not generate more energy. Vale, however, not only appealed the agency’s administrative process, but filed a lawsuit and obtained a decision that maintains, until today, the payment to the Candonga consortium, so that it continues to receive normally, through transfers made through a mechanism accounting of the electric sector that is shared by all hydroelectric plants in the country.
In practice, all plants pay the monthly fees to the Risoleta Neves plant, a cost that is then gradually passed on to energy consumers in Brazil, through the electricity bill. Aneel data show that the situation has already generated a direct loss to the consumer in excess of R $ 100 million.
This Wednesday, 7, the case is on the agenda of the Superior Court of Justice (STJ). Vale has already obtained a decision in court in its favor, that is, maintaining payments for a plant that no longer exists.
In October of last year, the president of the STJ, Minister Humberto Martins, who is the rapporteur of the case, rejected an appeal by Aneel and maintained the payments required by Vale, with the maintenance of the hydroelectric plant in the so-called Energy Reallocation Mechanism (MRE). This system, in reality, was created to reduce the financial impacts caused by the risks of scarcity of rain in the country, that is, so that plants that are left with little water to generate energy are rewarded by the others that are better off. It therefore has nothing to do with the case of the Risoleta Neves hydroelectric plant, which was swallowed up by Samarco’s mud.
Upon accepting Vale’s request, Humberto Martins stated, in his five-page decision, that “in the present case, the occurrence of a serious injury is not verified”, because “it was not unequivocally proven, in what sense the hydrological risk shared between companies causes serious damage to order, health, safety and the public economy ”.
Aneel appealed the decision of Minister Humberto Martins and the case will now be analyzed by the Special Court of the STJ, composed of the 15 oldest ministers of the court. The first to vote will be Martins himself, the case reporter, who will analyze Aneel’s arguments against his previous decision. Then, the other ministers will say whether they agree or disagree with the rapporteur’s vote. The Attorney General’s Office, which represents Aneel, asked to withdraw the case from the virtual agenda, where the trial takes place without debate. The fear is that a decision will be made without any discussion on the subject.
The report questioned Vale and Samarco on the matter. The company’s position, of which Vale is a partner, is that Samarco would not comment.
Questioned by the report, Aneel confirmed that it has sought to “suspend the injunction that unduly benefits the Risoleta Neves hydroelectric plant, guaranteeing it revenue from the Energy Reallocation Mechanism (MRE) even without generating energy since the accident at the Samarco dam”. During that time, said Aneel, the Candonga consortium “has not been diligent in resuming the plant’s commercial operation”.
To Estadão, the director general of Aneel, André Pepitone, affirmed that there is expectation in the agency that the situation will be reversed and the payments, paralyzed. “Aneel relies on the suspension of the injunction by the special court of the Superior Court of Justice,” he said.
In October last year, a group of 21 hydroelectric plants demonstrated in the process that tries to stop payments made to the Candonga consortium. “Although the cause of the generation inability is not attributable to the Agent (Candonga consortium), he cannot receive for an energy without actually being in commercial operation, for a long term and due to a reason other than the mere lack of rain,” they said. hydroelectric plants, through their lawyers. “It was absurdly possible for the agent prevented from generating for non-hydrological reasons to continue receiving for the sale of energy and unduly transferring the costs of this generation to the other generators of the MRE and to the final consumers.”
In December of last year, Aneel gave a six-month deadline for the resumption of the Risoleta Neves plant, which entered into a process of expiry of the concession. The plant was installed in the municipalities of Santa Cruz do Escalvado and Rio Doce, with a capacity of 140 megawatts. The hydroelectric plant, which started operating in 2004 under the name of the Candonga plant, was renamed in 2005, when it was renamed Risoleta Neves, in honor of Risoleta Guimarães Tolentino Neves (1917-2003), wife of ex-president Tancredo Neves ( 1910-1985).
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