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By Luciano Costa
SAO PAULO, Oct 16 (Reuters) - State Grid Corp of China and Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras SA will start commercial operation of a key power transmission line for Brazil’s Belo Monte dam in December, two months ahead of schedule, an official told Reuters on Monday.
“We are looking to complete the work in October, run tests through November and start commercial operation in December,” said Newton Zerbini, head of a joint venture named BMTE, created by State Grid and Eletrobras to build the line.
The early operation would allow BMTE to also start charging transmission fees before expected.
This is the first of two high-capacity lines expected to bring electricity from Belo Monte, built in the northern Pará state in the Amazonian Xingu river, to Brazil’s Southeast, the country’s leading power consuming region.
Belo Monte had already been impacted by the collapse of Spanish infrastructure conglomerate Abengoa, who was in charge of another high-capacity line whose construction was abandoned in 2015.
The anticipation will allow Belo Monte, the world’s third largest hydropower dam with 11,233 megawatts, to start several turbines that are already installed but so far could not produce energy since there was no way to transport it.
Belo Monte shareholders include power companies Eletrobras, Cia Energética de Minas Gerais SA, Neoenergia SA and mining company Vale SA.
The first high-capacity line, with 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), will cut through the jungle from Pará passing by Tocantins and Goiás in central Brazil and reaching Minas Gerais, in a location near the border with industrialized Sao Paulo state.
The Brazilian government is keen to have more power from Belo Monte available in the Southeast, since below-average rains in recent months have cut hydropower production and forced more expensive generation through thermal plants, increasing power costs for companies and families.
Brazil’s government confirmed it has already received a request by BMTE for an early start of the line. It said its environmental agency Ibama is conducting an inspection during this week before granting the venture an operational license.
The second line, which is being built by State Grid as well, is expected to enter operation only in 2019. (Writing by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Marguerita Choy)