Portugal produced more power from clean energy sources in March than it actually needed, marking the first time in the 21st century that renewables have topped 100% of its production. But a dearth of energy connections with the rest of Europe remains problematic. For more information see the IDTechEx report on off grid zero-emission electricity.
Increasing renewable energy capacity is one of the key pillars of the Energy Union and in the month of March, Portugal was regularly able to meet 100% of its energy needs predominantly through hydro and wind power. According to the Iberian nation's transmission system operator, REN, renewable energy output reached 4,812GWh, surpassing Portugal's total electricity needs for March, which only topped 4,647GWh. That meant that the average for the month reached 103.6% from renewables, outstripping the previous contemporary record of 99.2%, set back in February 2014. In the last 40 years, Portugal has not managed to match March's efforts.
In fact, during the same period last year, renewable energy was only able to meet 62% of Portugal's electricity needs. Green MEP Claude Turmes praised Portugal's "impressive" progress, citing it as evidence that the EU should support a renewable energy target of more than 27% for 2030.
Negotiations are currently ongoing between the European Parliament, Commission and member states on the update of the bloc's renewable rules. MEPs are calling for a 35% target, while the EU executive and national capitals back just 27%. But Luxembourger Turmes and lead rapporteur José Blanco Lopez (Socialists and Democrats) might find the Commission fighting their corner during the closed talks, as the Berlaymont has indicated in recent months that a 30% target could be feasible.
Portugal's renewable energy association (APREN) and sustainability NGO ZERO worked out that the clean energy successes of March will translate into 1.8 million fewer tonnes of CO2 emissions and savings of over €20 million thanks to a reduced need for emissions allowances. The green groups also calculated that the increase in renewable generation meant average energy prices fell from €43.94 per MWh this time last year to just €39.75 per MWh.
But Portugal's clean energy triumph was not all shining solar panels and whirring hydro turbines, as during some hours fossil fuel power and imports were needed to balance supply. However, APREN and ZERO's analysis pointed out that those hours were cancelled out by periods of surplus generation.
Top image: Luis Goncalves