Itaipu ends 2016 with a historic production of 103.09 million MWh
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The Itaipu hydroelectric plant ended 2016 with a historic production of 103,098,366 megawatt hour (MWh) and established a new world record in annual generation. The plant that never stops surprising ended the year how it started: breaking records. Itaipu recorded the best December of all time. Last month approximately 8.9 million MWh were produced.
With this production, Itaipu is once again the largest producer of electricity in the world, in terms of annual production. The world record was previously held by the Chinese plant of Three Gorges, which produced 98.8 million MWh in 2014.
This historic production was registered in early summer, when the thermal sensation in some cities in Southeast Brazil and in Asunción, Paraguay, reached 50 degrees Celsius. At the peak of the heat, the Paraguayan-Brazilian plant ensured the energy supply for the markets of the two countries.
The 103.09 million MWh generated by Itaipu would be enough to meet the Brazilian need for two months and eighteen days, Paraguay for seven years and three months, the Southeast region of Brazil for five months, the city of São Paulo for three years and five months, the city of Rio de Janeiro for five years and eight months, the city of Salvador for 26 years and six months. The entire Latin America would be supplied with electricity for 35 days.
Record after record
In twelve months, Itaipu had registred monthly records in seven of them: January, February, May, June, October, November and December. April, July, August and September were in second place in the historical monthly ranking, and March took third place.
With spectacular performance day after day, at the beginning of 2016 the plant already showed the possibility of reaching the unprecedented goal of 100 million MWh proposed in 2012 by the board of the company. "We only did not know that this value would be exceeded in more than 3 million MWh", says Brazilian general director, Mr. Jorge Samek.
"The record shows the maturity of Itaipu, which is preparing for a new step from 2017 at the peak of its production and productivity. Once again, the plant has shown its strength to contribute effectively in the development of Brazil and Paraguay."
Not even the most optimistic person could have imagined that the plant would reach such an audacious goal, surpassing by more than 28 million MWh the guaranteed energy of 75 million MWh set by the Treaty that gave rise to the plant.
Peak of the production
It was an unprecedented year for the operation of the plant, which reached thirty-two years and seven months of operation in 2016, at the height of production, with numerous records, being back to the global leadership of annual energy generation, with more than 4 million MWh over the Chinese Three Gorges Dam.
The increased production has raised the participation of Itaipu in the Brazilian electricity market in 2 percentage points, going from 14.6% in 2015 to 16.8% in 2016. In the South, Southeast and Central-West, regions of greater energy consumption in Brazil, the participation of the plant grew from 19.3% to 22.4%, an increase of 3 percentage points.
Less expensive energy
The increased production of Itaipu also promoted the participation of hydroelectric plants in the national generator park in 2016. With the increased use of hydropower, which is cleaner and cheaper, the use of thermoelectric plants was reduced. Another positive aspect is the increase in the value of the transfer of royalties, which will be approximately 15%. From 1985 up to 2016, the plant paid approximately $10 billion in royalties to Brazil and Paraguay.
Payment for the exploration of the water for power generation is set out in Annex C of the Itaipu Treaty. On the Brazilian side, the resources benefit sixteen cities, being fifteen in the State of Paraná and one in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. Royalties are used to improve the quality of life of the population and the areas of education, health, housing and sanitation.
What about the future?
With twenty generating units and 14,000 MW of installed capacity, Itaipu is at the limit of its physical capacity and at the peak of production. According to the Brazilian director-general, Jorge Samek, now comes the planning of the future. To ensure that in the next 50 years the plant keeps the performance from these first three decades, an ambitious plan will be implemented to upgrade the generating units. With planned investment of $500 million, the modernization process must take at least ten years, combining optimized production, preventive maintenance and technological updating.  
"The plan was built in the last five years, by Brazilian and Paraguayan teams, with the contribution of the first generation of Itaipu engineers, engineers who know the plant, its operation and maintenance. The idea is to keep the plant competitive until the next century," said Samek.
How has Itaipu reached this mark?
According to the Superintendent of Operation, Celso Torino, there is no simple answer to that question. "It is the sum of actions that are being taken by competent persons who are or have been with Itaipu since the beginning. They are a natural and cumulative improvement of the care for people, the environment, the dam, the facilities and, finally, our common and binational purpose, which is the systematic optimization of productivity and the production of energy for Brazil and Paraguay." 
Another highlight of Itaipu in recent years has been its operational performance (which measures the production obtained and the ideal maximum production). The index was 96.2% in 2016. This value is very close to the ideal. According to Torino, such a high standard of productivity was only possible with a high level of competence and incorporation of the professionals of the company, in particular the technical area, as well as the management of production and supply with the Brazilian partners Eletrobras, Furnas, Copel and ONS and the Paraguayan Ande.
Progression of production since 1984
In the first year of operation, in May 1984, Itaipu generated 276,529 MWh. The following year, this volume increased to 6,327,274 MWh. In the 1980s, it produced 47,229,655 MWh.
In 1995, for the first time, Itaipu exceeded the expectations of its Treaty. In that year, 77,212,396 MWh were produced. In 1999, the plant exceeded the mark of 90 million MWh, with a total of 90,001,900 MWh.
In 2001, even with one of the worst droughts of the history, production was 79,307,075 MWh. In 2002, still under the effects of the prolonged drought, the total generation ended being 82,914,269 MWh. In 2006, Itaipu returned to produce over 90 million, with 92,689,936 MWh.
In 2008, when the project that provided for twenty generating units (the last two were installed in 2007, increasing the installed capacity from 12,600 MW to 14,000 MW) was already finished, the plant recorded an exceptional production of 94,684,781 MWh, its record so far. This production would only be overcome in 2012, when Itaipu reached 98,287,128 MWh. That year, the board of directors established as a challenge the goal of 100 million MWh.
In the following year, in 2013, a new record was set: 98,630,035 MWh. In 2014, however, the drought that Brazil faced also affected the plant. It was the worst drought in the last 40 years, reducing the ability of virtually all hydroelectric plants of the country. Itaipu returned to generate less than 90 million MWh - the plant generated 87,795,393 MWh but with a 99.3% operational performance, the best in its history. In 2015, still under the effects of the drought, it met the Brazilian and Paraguayan systems with 89,215,404 MWh.