Portugal’s energy needs were supplied by renewable energy alone for four days last week. This can be compared to a first quarter performance of 70% renewables for the first quarter of 2014 and 63% for the year 2014.
System Sustainable Land Association in collaboration with the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association analysed the data released by the National Energy Network (REN) and concluded that the four consecutive days of 100% renewable energy was a milestone.
Between May 7th and 11th, over a period of 107 hours, the electricity supply industry did not have to draw from non-renewable sources such as coal and gas-to-electricity generation plants.
The main sources of Portugal’s renewable energy is from biofuels and waste combustion with wind and hydro-electric power adding an increasingly percentage. Geothermal and solar plants also are starting to take off.
In 2013, Portugal got 25.7% of its electricity from renewables, in 2014 the percentage rose to 63% but in 2015, due mainly to the drought affecting hydro-electric plants, the figure dropped to 50.4%.
None of this benefits the consumer however as energy suppliers in Portugal charge among the highest rates in Europe.
With wind, water and sun in abundance, Portugal should be an example to the rest of Europe less blessed with such natural advantages but has been slow to invest.
It is not just a question of investing in renewables as within the range of options. opinions differ as to the cost:benefits of each.
A report in 2011 sharply criticise Portugal's expensive 2007 dams programme as not meeting financial and environmental needs:
"The Portuguese large dam program (PNBEPH) and other new large dams in Portugal are consistently bad business, a social burden and an environmental threat. They will sink the country ever more into debt, burdening uselessly the Portuguese consumers and taxpayers to the amount of some 15000M€, and contributing to a wrong energy policy.
"The purported goals of the program are either moot (like the pumping capacity) or, in the case of increasing the share of renewables, reducing GHG emissions and external dependence, could be achieved with alternative measures, much more cost-effective and with positive social and environmental impacts, such as the efficient use of energy." (The Portuguese Dam Program: an economic and environmental disaster: GEOTA, FAPAS, LPN, Quercus, CEAI, Aldeia, COAGRET, Flamingo, SPEA.)
Technological development over time will enable more efficient renewables production but again, Portugal has been slow in developing wave power systems despite being ideally placed to do so.
With the Paris CO2 agreement ratification process in disarray, the country has an opportuinty to lead the way in the renewable energy market despite the unwillingness of many EU partners fully to engage.
The Algarve’s University is aiming to boost the development of renewable energy technology with the launch of a new programme to be included in its curriculum.
The European "E-RESPLAN - Innovative Educational Tools for Energy Planning" project is to be launched later this week by the University’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer division.
E-RESPLAN is funded by the European Commission with the goal of filling gaps in higher education programmes, focusing on renewable energy sources, development and planning.
A University spokesman said the new course is being offered, "due to the rapid technological development in the field of renewable energy sources, which makes it difficult to integrate renewable energy planning in university curricula."
Many countries around the world are leading the charge towards a clean energy future. According to 2013 data from the Energy Information Administration, 16 countries have hit 100% renewable electricity production.
Many of the countries often have small populations and great natural resources. Half of these 16 countries are African, four Asian, two Latin American and two European countries.
Costa Rica recently made headlines for running on only renewable energy for 75 days of 2015.
Nordic countries are often praised for their renewable energy efforts. Iceland has achieved 100%, with Norway close behind on 98% according to 2013 data.
Denmark has also seen milestones as a leader in wind power. Although the country uses renewables for around half of its electricity, on some days it produces as much as 140% of its own needs due to the intermittent nature of the sources.