Portugal is showing that ambitious renewable energy goals are within reach

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2018-04-16

Enlarge / Alto Rabagao dam. Tras os Montes, Portugal (credit: Getty Images)

Portugal's energy system operator had some interesting news to share once March had closed out. It seems that even as Portugal's monthly energy consumption increased 9.7 percent compared to March 2017, the country produced enough renewable energy (just over 4,800 Gwh) to exceed its energy demand (just over 4,600 Gwh).

This doesn't mean Portugal avoided fossil fuel use: these figures just compare the total gigawatts of renewable energy produced with the total gigawatts of energy demanded for the whole month. Sometimes, that demand didn't coincide with the time that the renewables were producing, so natural gas and coal plants had to be used. Still, according to the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association (APREN), the day with the least amount of renewable consumption (March 7) still had enough to meet 86 percent of Portugal's demand through renewable energy. On the other extreme, Portugal's renewable energy sector produced 143 percent of its demand on March 11. In fact, Portugal's electricity consumption was met fully by renewable energy for a 70-hour period beginning on March 9 and for a 69-hour period beginning on March 12.

Extra energy can be exported or used to pump water for Portugal's pumped storage, APREN's President of the Board, António Sá da Costa, told Ars via email. The Association confirmed that no water in the pumped storage facilities was turbined in March, so that water can be used to create more renewable energy in June or July, when hydroelectric power might run low.

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