Zero emissions has been achieved in a big way in Portugal. An analysis of the country’s national energy usage figures shows that the entire country ran on nothing but solar, wind, hydro power and biofuels for over four straight days, a 107-hour run running on no fossil fuels.
Portugal’s renewable energy run began on May 7th at 6.45 am and ended on May 11th at 5:45 pm and was verified by the National Energy Network (REN) and the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association (APREN). How did they do it? Francisco Ferreira, President of Portuguese sustainability NGO Zero, explains:
Portugal has been investing considerably in renewables, particularly in electricity, since this will be the main final energy within the next decades with the transition from fossil fuels in road transportation to electric vehicles. Since key decisions in the beginning of the century to greatly expand on-shore wind, with the renew of the equipment in certain dams and the improvement of their storage capacity to handle wind production variability, the electricity system can now achieve 100% of renewable electricity being produced and even export.
Throw in favorable weather for the May 4th weekend and extensive cooperation between all of the entities involved in managing Portugal’s electricity network and they had the perfect conditions to achieve full independence from fossil fuels. A major supplier of Portugal’s renewable energy is solar power, since the country receives the most sunlight in Europe.
However, just as important is Portugal’s turnaround from coal to a dedicated commitment to renewables. A huge coal-burning power plant built in Sines in the late 80s soon made Portugal Europe’s largest producer of CO2 emissions. That revelation plus a directive from the EU that member nations need to produce at least 31% of their power from renewable sources – prompted a drastic turnaround that resulted in Portugal getting 48% of its energy from renewables in 2015.
While Portugal is currently in the renewables lead, Germany is close behind. On May 15th, Germany ran on 95% renewable energy, breaking last year’s record of 70-80%. Power prices actually went negative a few times, which meant consumers were being paid to use power! And it what is being called a “historic turning point” in the UK, for the first time in over 100 years the amount of electricity generated from coal fell to zero several times in the past week.
This competition to be first in renewable energy will probably have to be made into an Olympic event before we hear cries of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”