Brazil electricity crunch a thing of the past -minister
* Reservoirs restored, capacity added
* Minister says power supplies exceed demand
BRASILIA, April 8 (Reuters) - Brazil's hydroelectric reservoirs are back to adequate levels and power shortages are a thing of the past with supplies comfortably exceeding national demand, Brazilian Mining and Energy Minister Edison Lobao said on Monday.
Brazil has added 2,116 MW in new generating capacity in the first quarter of this year of the 8,500 MW expansion planned for 2013, Lobao said at a press conference called to counter press reports that delays in building new generating capacity are endangering supplies to the national grid.
"I can guarantee delays won't put Brazil's electricity system at risk. We guarantee the supply of electricity in Brazil for 2013, 2014 and forever," he said.
Lobao stressed there would be no power supply shortages that could jeopardize the Confederations Cup soccer tournament to be held in six Brazilian cities in June, nor the 32-nation FIFA World Cup next year.
An aide to the minister said electricity supply exceeded demand by more than 1,700 MW at present.
A hot summer and a drought in the northeast of Brazil lowered water supplies in reservoirs with hydroelectric dams to critical levels in January, raising the risk of power shortages and blackouts and forcing Brazil to resort to the extended use of more costly thermoelectric power plants.
The energy crunch did not stop President Dilma Rousseff from pushing ahead with her plan to cut Brazil's high energy costs with government-mandated reductions in electricity rates introduced in February.
Lobao said Brazil will continue to use thermal power as needed, striving to use the lower cost plants, which use imported fuel and LNG. Nonetheless, he said that Brazil's power matrix remained one of the world's cleanest and most renewable, with its heavy reliance on hydroelectric power. (Reporting by Leonardo Goy and Peter Murphy; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)