and innovations in the hemisphere
from an outbreak of yellow fever to ated by sewage itself to clean up the Due to its wealth of biomass, the
flooding, that absorbed the country’s waste. From the facility’s supply of partners believe Brazil is uniquely
attention last year—and triggered a “biomass,” the term for any rene wable positioned to benefit from replica-
declaration of national emergency organic fuel, the company captures tion of these models.
across 60 percent of the national the “biogas” emitted by its decompo- Schittini, 30, and Pereira, 31, have
territory. SEN’s model of preventive sition, which can then be refined into been working together since 2004 .
action put emergency workers into natural gas to power the facility or Their project is now in a research
the field from the start, engaging in for resale. According to Schittini, the stage at the E TE Alegria sewage-treat-
meetings with community groups system will not only produce enough ment plant in Rio de Janeiro, and is
that provide feedback to help the natural gas to cover 100 percent of a operating in conjunction with three
government target its response. In treatmentplant’s energydemandbut other energy companies, allowing
its own way this represented a revo- can also become a net supplier of en- it to offer a vertical end-to-end so-
lution in relations between the Par- ergy. Because a plant’s energy costs lution, from production of natural
aguayan government and civil soci- are second only to personnel costs, gas to distribution.
ety. Traditionally, as Soares points both partners hope their model will The two are also currently in talks
out, bureaucrats andpoliticians have make large-scale sewage treatment with several food producers to dis-
been wary of popular participation, viable and profitable, proving that cuss gaining access to the biomass
but “there is no other way of know- energy happens. left overfrom their production (rather
ing about problems, of recognizing Similar concepts have proved suc- than consumption) of foodstuffs.
problems and of handling problems cessful elsewhere. An estimated 30 Few companies are aware of the
without directly involving the people percent of Denmark’s energy produc- bonanza that resides in their manu-
affected.” If SEN’s model succeeds, it tion is fueled by biomass—though facturing processes. Schittini has yet
will owe a major debt to the lessons not just sewage-based. “What we’re to see a single company during his
learnedfromyouthactivism. Without proposing is not by any stretch of travels throughout Brazil that even
“the experiences of being an activist, the imagination entirely new,” con- attempts to measure how much bio-
I don’t think this vision would have cedes Schittini . “There are available gas it wastes. But if Acesa Bioenergia
been possible,” says Soares. models all over the world; they just is successful, Brazilians will soon
haven’t been tried here in Brazil.” come to see the benefits.
Item that powers itself. The possibility is not just an energy issue; it’s a public health issue. In
Brazil, only 20 percent of waste
magine a sewage-treatment sys-
matter is treated because the amount
of energy required in the treatment
process makes facilities prohibitively expensive to operate. The remainder is often dumped into rivers and other open waters, causing
wide-scale pollution. But Rio de Janeiro natives Marcio Schittini and
Luiz Felipe Pereira have developed
a novel two-in-one solution.
The company they created in 2007,
Acesa Bioenergia, uses power gener- Waste not: Schittini and Pereira hope to convert what’s fouling this river into energy.