Brazil lower house OKs measure to benefit seven power utilities
BRASILIA May 19 (Reuters) - The lower house of Brazil's Congress approved late on Wednesday a government measure to extend a compliance deadline and boost subsidies for power distributors in northern Brazil, including subsidiaries of state electricity utility Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras SA .
The measure lengthens a deadline to 10 years from five for seven power utilities in northern Brazil to comply with regulations from the electricity watchdog Aneel as a condition to retain their operating licenses, a statement from the lower house said.
Four of those companies are controlled by Eletrobras, as the state-controlled holding company is known.
The measure, which still needs to be approved by the Senate, increases the amount of subsidies some of those power distributors could receive from the government related to the share of energy they buy from thermal power plants.
Some distributors in northern Brazil are not connected to the national grid and need to buy energy from thermal power generators, which are subsidized by the federal government to make power more affordable to the area's consumers.
The program approved by the house was first implemented as a provisional measure by the government last December. It requires congressional approval to become law.
Some congressmen view it as an initiative to help Eletrobras, which is heavily indebted.
An Aneel report estimated the measure could increase subsidies to the seven power generators by 14.5 billion reais ($4.05 billion) by 2020, the lower house statement said.
($1 = 3.5817 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Silvio Cascione and Marcelo Teixeira Editing by W Simon)
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