Using Only Renewable Energy, Portugal Powered Its Entire Country for Four Days

Portugal just did something pretty amazing. In fact, it’s historic — something no other nation has ever done. Portugal just powered its entire country’s electricity needs for four consecutive days using nothing but renewable energy.

Using a combination of solar panels, wind turbines, biofuels, geothermal heat and hydroelectric power, Portugal powered everything†requiring electricity for 107 hours between Saturday morning, May 7, 2016, and Wednesday evening, May 11, 2016. The country’s ZERO System Sustainable Land Association, in collaboration with the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association, released information about this impressive achievement on its website.

“These data show that Portugal can be more ambitious in a transition to a net consumption of electricity from 100 percent renewable, with huge reductions of emissions of greenhouse gases, which cause global warming and consequent climate change,” according to a statement on the ZERO website.

“We are seeing trends like this spread across Europe — last year with Denmark and now in Portugal,” Oliver Joy, Wind Europe trade association spokesman, told The Guardian. “The Iberian peninsula is a great resource for renewables and wind energy, not just for the region but for the whole of Europe.”

Indeed, all throughout Europe and elsewhere, countries now routinely set records and meet ever-better renewable energy goals:

  • Germany: On Sunday, May 8, 2016, Germany used renewable energy sources to meet 95 percent of its national power demand. Its goal is to produce 60 percent of its power in this way annually.
  • United Kingdom: Several times during a one-week period in early May 2016, the U.K. used zero electricity generated from coal — considered a “historic turning point” for that nation’s power
  • Denmark: In 2014, Denmark committed to eliminating all use of fossil fuels for electricity and transportation by 2050. It currently produces a third of its electricity via wind turbines and hopes to obtain 50 percent of its electricity via renewable energy by 2020.
  • Sweden: Renewable energy provides more than half of Sweden’s energy needs. As of 2015, the country’s stated goal was to become “one of the first fossil fuel-free welfare states of the world.” It wants to get there by 2040.
  • Austria: The largest state in this country, Lower Austria, announced in 2015 that it is generating 100 percent†of its power with renewable energy.
  • Uruguay: This country announced in 2015 that green energy gives it 94.5 percent of all its electricity — and it does this without government help or making power more expensive.
  • Ireland: Produced 17 percent†of its power in 2013 from wind turbines.
  • Spain: Wind power provided 21 percent of the country’s electricity in 2013.

Why isn’t every country racking up similarly impressive numbers? That’s a complicated story. It seems to be a combination of continuing policies that prop up the fossil fuel industry coupled with a lack of a sense of urgency.

In the United States, for example, we’ve got a lot of great national-scale initiatives in place to encourage development and use of renewable energy. Yet we also see ridiculous laws and policies that serve to cripple the rise of renewable energy.

wind turbines

Wind turbines in Portugal.

Florida is a great example. There’s enough sunshine in the Sunshine State to make widespread use of solar energy a no-brainer, right? Shouldn’t the state’s lawmakers support all initiatives aimed at encouraging the proliferation of solar energy, especially at the homeowner level? You’d think so, but it doesn’t happen that way.

“Why donít we have a bigger solar industry in Florida?” Mike Antheil, a solar industry lobbyist from West Palm Beach, asked in an interview†with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. “The answer is simple. Every kilowatt of solar you produce on your roof is one less kilowatt that the utilities can sell you.”

Public utilities understandably have a huge stake in slowing and even stopping the rise of renewable energy use by homeowners. Their sizable contributions to friendly politicians help keep a firm lid on laws that might otherwise threaten to allow renewable energy to flourish.

In Florida, as everywhere, installing solar panels on an individual home can be pricey. They might provide a return on a $15,000 to $20,000 investment in a couple of decades. That’s much longer than the average homeowner is willing to wait.

rooftop solar panels

However, some solar companies will install those panels for you and then charge you a reduced fee for the power you get from them — an immediate benefit. That kind of third-party solar power purchase agreement†is illegal in Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Such arrangements cut into the utility companies’ business, after all.

In these states, by law only “public utilities” may sell power. Other states may allow third party solar power purchase agreements, with limitations such as system size. That’s nice for the power public utility industry’s bottom line, but not so nice if we want to encourage renewable energy use at an individual level.

We need our public utilities to work hand in hand with renewable energy power providers, not fight them at every turn. It’s time to evolve away from fossil fuels and toward a cleaner future. There has to be a way for public utilities to survive without crushing the renewable energy industry. Find that way quickly. We don’t have forever to make a fundamental change like this.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

153 comments

Monica D
Monica D7 months ago

Noted, thank you. The world needs to significantly reduce the use of fossil fuel.

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padillaabout a year ago

So cool!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Cabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Marie W.
Marie Wabout a year ago

USA so far behind.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Awesome! Thank you for sharing.

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Jo P.
Joanna Pabout a year ago

Well done, Portugal!

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David M.
David Mabout a year ago

Great, but I'm not sure why it didn't become the permanent way of producing energy in Portugal.

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Chris P.
Chris Pabout a year ago

Congratulations Portugal, good work. No pollution

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Jacqueline L.

Thank you!

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Jacqueline L.

Great Article!

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