Portugal is Poised to Become Europe's Next Renewable Energy Giant

The development of renewable energy in many European countries has progressed rather fast over the course of the last decade. I wrote not too long ago about Germany’s incredible progress and their potential to reach 100% renewable energy in the next forty years. Portugal seems to be the next fast mover in the European renewable energy field now that they’ve come extremely close to achieving their goal of achieving 45% renewable energy by this year.

Like so many other nations, the desire to reduce their dependence of foreign oil was one of the primary factors in Portugal’s decision to begin pursuing renewable energy. In 2005, Portugal decided to begin utilizing their abundance of open space and comprehensive river networks to develop the renewable energy industry that had previously only began to grow. Starting with approximately 17% of their total electricity coming from renewable energy sources, the country initiated a program that would eventually cost an estimated $2.3 billion to operate but, in the end, will leave Portugal close, if not dead on, to their goal of 45% renewable energy. Much like their neighbors in Spain, a great deal of the power came from developing the currently existing wind grids while dabbling in solar power. Since wind and hydro power are among the cheapest renewable energy sources to develop and due to an abundance of space and rivers to work with the nation decided to focus on those two power sources. Despite this choice to pursue cheaper energy sources, the cost of electricity has risen throughout Portugal as renewable energy was adopted. The people in charge, however, have said that they believe once the cost of the investment has been fulfilled the price of power will drop significantly.

One of the other renewable energy sources Portugal has decided to pursue lies in the ocean. Long has Portugal held ties to the sea, with much of their influence in the Middle and Imperial ages coming from their extensive overseas empire and trade routes, though only recently have they decided to use it for power. The country was home to the Aguçadoura Wave Farm, a 2.25 megawatt installation that boasts the honor of being the world’s first commercial wave energy farm. Completed in 2008, the farm was meant to use three wave energy generators developed by Pelamis Wave Power Ltd to generate the power. However, after only a month in operation the generators had to be brought back and decommissioned. Despite this set back, Portugal is still interested in using their abundant coastline to develop tidal and wave energy.

With the goal of 45% renewable energy fully within Portugal’s reach for 2010 they have already decided to set a new goal for 60% renewable energy within the next ten years. Considering the immense progress they’ve made so far, and the progress that most other European countries have been making, it seems completely feasible that Portugal will succeed. Hopefully over here in the United States we will be able to overcome the obstacles we are facing with ousting fossil fuel based power and mimic the success Europe has had in adopting renewable energy.

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