Renewable energy is not for everybody. First, you got to have the natural resources to be able to sustain renewable energy (geothermal, hydro, wind, etc.). Secondly, you have to be able to arrive at the optimal mix of energy sources (most of the times, both renewable and non-renewable…even nuclear). This requires a comprehensive study of the energy demands, energy resources, the paying capacity of your government and your consumers, logistical needs of acquiring or producing and distributing energy of various geographical slices of the country.
It has to be that because you need to maximize your investment–what basket of energy resources will give you the maximum benefit, when compared to cost? You also have to undergo the grueling talks with societal and political institutions and haggling with bureaucracies and processes. Just thinking about the required cost of investment (and how other factors interplay in the future) will make one just want to stick with oil or coal. But, damn, I can’t get over Portugal.
Portugal’s electricity network operator announced that renewable energy supplied 70 percent of total consumption in the first quarter of this year. This increase was largely due to favorable weather conditions resulting in increased wind and water flow, as well as lower demand. Portuguese citizens are using less energy and using sources that never run out for the vast majority of what they do use.
Of course, we are still talking about the first consideration here. And, other variables we cannot control.
Portugal’s investment in modernizing its electricity grid in 2000 has come in handy. Like in many countries, power companies owned their own transmission lines. What the government did in 2000 was to buy all the lines, creating a publicly owned and traded company to operate them. This was used to create a smart grid that renewable energy producers could connect to (encouraged by government-organized auctions to build new wind and hydro plants).
Of course, any such nationalization of the energy distribution takes a lot of guts–guts to actually protect it and keep it protected from other plaguing political humdrum that usually pester development.
So now that it demonstrated the ability to generate 70 percent renewable energy for 3 months, where does Portugal go from here? Oddly enough, it does not have much in the way of offshore wind capacity — only 2 MW. The recent economic situation and austerity programs have endangered not only jobs and commerce, but continued investment in renewable energy and electric vehicles. Yet saving on the cost of having to import fossil fuels will be helpful for decades to come, and as its economy improves, it will have a strong renewable electricity grid to rely upon.
Of course, money talks. But when you’re talking about attracting investors, keeping industries alive, and generally just keeping your constituents happy by giving them light, good investments are worthy of keeping. Unless, you want to emulate Pakistan.
Good news! But not messianic
Portugal apparently almost doubled its 2012 energy production from renewable sources–reaching a 72% last June. While it this could be attributed to the grace of favorable weather conditions and the increase in number of generation facilities, the consumption in Portugal has also decreased. This means, that you give more breathing space for your energy products to meet demands without exhausting sources. Coal usage also got reduced by 22%, which is, good news for carbon emission reduction goals for the country (and, hey, Europe).
Reduced consumption could also signal distress and illustrate the strains in individual consumers (talk about unemployment). Moreover, expanding its energy system could also be impeded because of its deficit reduction targets (which it has to meet). Talk about the P in PIGS. It’s still a long road to go. Currently, austerity has already strained much of the country. With the looming possibility of a bailout affecting long-term credit and financial ability of the country, clearly, it has to cut back more on its government spending. Let’s see what happens with their energy program (though, personally, I don’t think that the EU would want such development to get stashed away).
Where the hell did I get these things?
Sustainable Energy Systems | Programs – MIT Portugal Program
Renewable energy output hits 72% in June – The Portugal News
Portugal Achieves 70 Percent Renewable Energy in First Quarter | The Energy Collective
Portugal energy boss: ‘Don’t believe’ country needs more aid – CNN.com
Trade Winds, Sound Policies Push Portugal to the Renewable Energy Forefront | Worldwatch Institute