Portugal on the cutting edge of renewable technologies

How Portugal is taking action to help avert a climate catastrophe

The success or failure of the COP26 climate summit, which finishes today in Glasgow, may depend largely on reaching an agreement on the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, a process Portugal is making considerable progress on while major polluting countries are lagging far behind. This is the summary of an excellent in-depth report by Len Port, a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: algarvenewswatch.blogspot.pt

I had already found a series of features by the broadcaster France 24 which has produced a series of special reports to coincide with the U.N. conference COP26 in Glasgow, including one depicting Portugal as “a country on the cutting edge of renewable energy technologies.” 

France 24 explains why Portugal is the EU country that has been most successful at cutting greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, partly through the use of floating wind turbines and solar platforms anchored by chains to the seabed off its west coast.

Tallest wind turbine in the world

Three of the filmed wind generators are located 20 kilometres out to sea and one of them is 190 metres tall, the tallest wind turbine in the world (see Windfloat Atlantic link below). Today, 65% of all the electricity consumed in Portugal comes from renewable sources.

An analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA), indicates that Portugal was among the first countries in the world to set 2050 carbon neutrality goals. Portugal’s energy and climate policies push for carbon neutrality primarily through broad electrification of energy demand and a rapid expansion of renewable electricity generation, along with increased energy efficiency.

“There is a strong focus on reducing energy import dependency and maintaining affordable access to energy. These policy goals are supported through clear targets, detailed national strategies and a wide range of regulations, economy-wide programmes and sector-specific measures,” says the latest IEA study.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol notes that “Portugal has found a good balance of ambitious targets and competitive support measures needed to drive a cost-effective energy transition.”

Portugal still remains reliant on imported fossil fuels, 43% of which in 2019 was oil, 24% natural gas and 6% coal.

As a result of increased economic activity and the high share of fossil fuels in its energy supply, Portugal’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 13% from 2014 to 2018. There have been notable annual variations driven by the seasonal availability of generation from Portugal’s large fleet of hydropower dams.

Since 2005, land-use change and forestry have, on average, reduced Portugal’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. However, in 2017, extreme wildfires caused notable emissions, and Portugal is still facing an increasing risk of wildfires, says the IEA.

A report by the International Trade Administration of the US Department of Commerce shows that Portugal has focused heavily on developing renewable energy over the last two decades and that it continues to be a global leader in renewable energy production. 

“A well-structured incentive mechanism and the adoption of ambitious targets helped this sector grow over the last couple of years,” says the trade association.

It continues: “Portugal’s new ambitious national energy and climate plan for 2030 and roadmap to carbon neutrality by 2050 targets at least 80% of electricity production coming from renewables and to further decarbonize the energy sector.

“The government is committed to a policy that will support the development of the market and ensure decarbonization goals are met in the most cost-effective manner.”

There is a strong focus in electricity and natural gas interconnection to unlock the potential of Portugal’s solar and wind resources and liquefied natural gas capacity to support local economic development and European energy security. 

To help achieve these ambitious goals, the association goes on to report that Portugal has announced the decommissioning of the country’s two coal-fired thermoelectric power plants.  The EDP coal-fired power plant located in Sines closed in January 2021. The Tejo Energia Pego power plant is expected to close by the end of this year.

The country has also developed a hydrogen strategy with the intent to decrease natural gas imports and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Meanwhile, the IEA points out that the Azores and Madeira autonomous regions set their own energy and climate policies and strategies. These islands still heavily rely on oil products, even for electricity generation. With the increasing introduction of renewable energy, oil demand is decreasing and some islands have already reached high shares of renewable electricity generation by leveraging a wide range of technologies (geothermal, wind, hydro, solar PV and energy storage).

The Azores and Madeira are testing different approaches to increase the share of renewables, boost the use of electric vehicles and improve the energy efficiency of residential and service sector buildings.

According to the IEA, the Azores’ and Madeira’s programmes to support the energy transition appear to be more ambitious than those for mainland Portugal, and these island regions can pioneer living labs to test innovative solutions, like storage, smart grids, electric mobility and integration of very high shares of renewables.

It’s clear that a small country like Portugal can set examples and make a contribution to avert the high risk of a climate catastrophe, but, of course, it’s up to major polluting nations – China, the United States India and Russia – to reach a workable solution at the COP26 summit.

Portugal’s stature as a leading force in green energy

Corpower Ocean, a leading wave energy technology developer, reports that Portugal’s stature as a leading force in green energy grew further this month with the arrival of the €45m “EU SCORES” Project – paving the way for the world’s first hybrid offshore energy park.

The European SCalable Offshore Renewable Energy Sources (EU-SCORES) Project will be partly located off the coast of Viana do Castelo, capitalising on northern Portugal’s abundant natural energy resources.

It will see CorPower’s pioneering wave energy linked with offshore wind, to create one of the world’s first combined offshore energy arrays. A separate element will see floating solar combined with offshore wind in Belgium.

The Portuguese government estimates its coastlines contain circa 34GW of wave power and is aiming to harness 70MW by 2030. A key pathfinder in this pursuit, EU SCORES further underpins the nation’s wider renewable energy objectives.

Portugal was among the first countries in the world to set 2050 carbon neutrality goals. Its ambitious National Energy & Climate Plan for 2021-2030, otherwise known as PNEC 2030, is pitching for renewable energy to deliver 47% of gross final energy consumption, within the next decade.

More specifically, Portugal is ramping up installed capacity of renewable electricity, aiming to add around 15GWs to its energy system. This will drive the overall share of ‘renewables-produced’ electricity to 80%. In addition, it is planning a 35% reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels, by 2030.

In May 2016 Portugal ran for four days straight on renewable energy alone.

Steady success has been recorded in recent years, going back to May 2016, when the country ran for four days straight on renewable energy alone. This was followed by further progress in March 2018, when renewable electricity production outstripped monthly consumption for the first time in the nation’s history. The landmark EU SCORES Project now arrives a pivotal moment in Portugal’s renewable energy narrative.

Alongside CorPower Ocean Portugal Lda, three Portuguese institutions will support the project: EDP Labelec, INESC TEC and WavEC. Together, they will contribute to the definition of the solution and its implementation, as well as the monitoring of structures, maritime biodiversity, and the development of control strategies for the operations and asset management.

While attempting to accelerate the energy transition, EU-SCORES also aims to crystallise the value of partnering complementary energy sources, like wave and wind, which can work in tandem to create a more continuous power profile. This combined approach essentially creates a more resilient and stable power system, not only with greater production capacity, at a lower cost per MWh (Megawatt-hour), but also more consistency.

Adding to Portugal’s glowing renewables résumé, EU SCORES further supports the nation’s Industrial Strategy for Ocean Renewable Energies, designed to create a competitive and innovative industrial export cluster for ocean renewable energy.

As preparations continue to launch CorPower’s first commercial scale system, with the flagship HiWave-5 Project, exciting times await on the north Portugal coast welcoming the world’s first hybrid offshore energy array.

Thanks to Jaime and PeterA for some of the links here.

COVID-19 in Madeira: daily updates can be found in an earlier post

Travel latest: requirements for entering and leaving Madeira: is kept up-to-date on a previous post

2 thoughts on “Portugal on the cutting edge of renewable technologies”

  1. Also, people were saying that the turbine blades would cause problems for birds causing them to get disorientated or they would fly into the blades etc. Thankfully this does not seem to be happening.


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