PV rural electrification projects in Brazil started in the period 1992-1993 [44]. Around 1500 SHS were installed as part of these projects in Northeast Brazil in cooperation with the local electricity distribution companies, who were responsible for systems installation, maintenance and performance monitoring. An initiative to promote the use of renewable energy was launched in 1995 with the goal of installing 50MWp of PV systems by the year 2005 [45]. PRODEEM, a program for energy development in municipalities and states was launched in 1994 to deliver electricity by means of renewable energy to rural communities not served by the grid [46]. By the year 2002 the fifth phase of this program was being completed, bringing the number of PV systems installed to a total of 8742, equivalent to 5.8 MW of power.

A general audit of the PRODEEM program was carried out by the corresponding federal authority in 2002, having found that the program had under-performed in a number of concepts. Among others, centralized decision making with low degree of involvement of the beneficiaries, not having prepared the user for the opportunities that electricity availability carries with it, responsibilities of the agents involved not clearly identified, lack of user training for system operation and maintenance, as well as lack of technical assistance and system sustainability measures. Hence, the PRODEEM program was restructured in 2003 and incorporated into the then recently created “Luz para Todos” (Light for All) program, which had the goal of implementing 300 000 rural systems by the end of 2008. A task force was created in 2004 to carry out field surveys so that legal ownership of already installed systems could be regularized. Training of services providers, communal agents and municipal technicians for system protection and maintenance was also carried out. The process for the implementation of PRODEEM is well established and documented in the literature cited here [48].

Several state governments, including Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo and Parana, launched their own PV rural electrification projects [47]. General criteria for eligibility in the CEMIG program include localities farther than 5 km from the nearest electricity grid and a user density of less than 5 people per square kilometer. CEMIG provides financing for 64% of the project cost, the remaining 36% being covered by the community authorities [49]. A PV “pre-electrification” program was established in 1998 to stimulate growth of the electrical demand in remote places, to the point where grid extensions could become economically viable.

Over the years, a number of programs and projects have taken place in Brazil in coop­eration with foreign agencies for the implementation of off-grid PV. Examples can be found in references [49, 50]. All in all, it is estimated that by the end of 2008 the total PV capacity installed in rural areas of the country is close to 20 MW, less than half the original goal established for 1995, which merits a thorough analysis of the causes that prevented the original goal from being met.

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