The water and energy crises, the paths adopted by the federal government to resolve them, and the increase in the price of electricity and gas bills have imposed significant sacrifices on Brazilians, especially among the poorest. A survey by Ipec (Intelligence in Research and Consulting), commissioned by the Institute for Climate and Society (iCS), measured this impact and concluded that the spending on gas and electricity already uses up half or more of the income of 46% of Brazilian families. 10% use almost all of their family income on these expenses, 12% more than half their family income and 24% half their family income.
Ipec surveyed 2002 people, aged 16 and over, in all the regions of Brazil between November 11 and 17, 2021. For 90%, the current cost of the electricity bill is having “a lot” or “a little” impact on the day-to-day life of families. In order to pay the bills, four out of ten Brazilians (40%) have reduced or stopped buying clothes, shoes and household appliances. Moreover, no less than 22% have reduced the purchase of basic foods in order to guarantee the supply of energy to their homes, which increases to 28% for those living in the Northeast. Furthermore, 14% are unable to pay basic bills such as water and piped gas.
The survey also points to a change in the behavior of Brazilians to try to reduce their electricity bills: almost half (49%) say they have adopted measures such as taking quicker showers and turning off lights. 44% say they have stopped using or have reduced the use of household appliances that consume a significant amount of energy. Many went further: 42% have replaced light bulbs with more economical ones, and 23% have begun to avoid consuming excess energy at peak times. Only 5% said they were using alternative renewable sources, such as solar energy, and 18% have not changed their habits.
The increase in the price of gas cylinders is most felt by the population. The survey also showed that, for 52%, the increase in the price of gas cylinders was the highest among energy sources (electric, piped gas and gas cylinders), while 42% blamed electricity. One in ten Brazilians have started to use firewood for cooking, 6% charcoal, and 4% an electric stove.
It was not just spending money on gas and energy that prejudiced families in 2021. More than half of those interviewed (52%) said they had suffered water supply interruptions in the last 12 months. In the Northeast, this number was 61%.
Water and energy crises have renewed concerns over blackouts
The survey also shows that the water and energy crises are widely recognized by the population and that they are significantly concerned about them: 79% have heard about the water crisis and 68% the energy crisis. Nine out of ten are concerned about the possibility of rationing or blackouts in the near future, with 70% saying they are very concerned. The preoccupation is greater in the capitals and the surrounding areas.
Six out of ten of those interviewed said they have used more energy this year, and nine out of ten have noticed an increase in their electricity bills. The federal government (47%) and state governments (43%) are identified as being mainly responsible for this increase, followed by the energy companies (32%) and the hydroelectric power plants (20%). On the other hand, 71% claim to be unaware of federal government proposals for voluntary reductions in consumption.
Brazilians are not at all optimistic about the future cost of their electricity bills: 76% say that it will increase next year, and 51% believe that it will “increase a lot.” Only 12% think it will remain the same, and 7% believe it will be cheaper. Almost all Brazilians (89%) fear possible increases in the price of the household electricity bill next year.
66% say they are “very afraid” of possible increases, 23% “a little afraid”, and 8% are unafraid. Three out of four Brazilians believe that the cost of energy will lead to an increase in the prices of basic products. In the Northeast, this belief is 81%.
The lack of water worries almost all Brazilians: 78% say they are very worried, 14% a little worried, and only 6% are not concerned. The most concerned are the most educated (84%), those who live in the Northeast (84%), on the outskirts of large cities (82%) and in medium-sized municipalities (82%).
A majority (70%) consider that the federal government has been negligent in its attempt to resolve the water crisis. Thinking about the future, the survey reveals that the country is not optimistic in relation to the impact of climate change: almost nine out of ten (88%) believe that climate change has an impact on the rainfall regime in Brazil and, for 56% of Brazilians, climate change will increase the volume of rainfall in the future.
The survey has good news regarding the awareness of Brazilians in relation to the importance of energy efficiency. Asked if they consider the efficiency of household appliances when choosing what to buy, 52% said they always do, 16% almost always and 13% rarely. 17% said they ignored energy efficiency seals and labels.
Support for renewable energy
The population has a positive perception regarding renewable energies. 81% want them to be expanded. For 69%, the renewables harm the environment less, and 64% say that the investment in renewable energy contributes to job creation. Half (50%) believe they are cheaper than non-renewables, and 31% believe they are more expensive. The reliability of renewables is high: for 59%, they are as reliable as conventional energy, while 25% consider them less reliable.
Finally, the survey shows the demand of the population in relation to the expansion of clean energy in the country and they believe that this subject should be a priority for the presidential candidates in the elections. Most Brazilians (77%) say that proposals to expand the use of renewable energies in Brazil should be a priority for presidential candidates. 81% say that proposals that aim to avoid the occurrence of water crises in the future should also be prioritized by the candidates.
Read the full survey here
Read the reports about the survey in the media: