Renewable Energy Independence: Portugal Leads the Way

Alternative Power Lights up a Nation’s Electrical Grid for Four Days

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
June 9, 2016
An aerial view of Portugal lit up at night. Portugal ran the entire electrical grid on renewable energy for four days.

Setting an example in renewable energy, Portugal ran its lights solely on alternative power for four days. A view of Portugal (foreground) and the Iberian Peninsula as seen from the space station.

Last month the small European state of Portugal set an example for the rest of the world by running its electrical grid entirely on alternative power for four days (May 7–May 10). This country of ten million people, which occupies about a fifth of the Iberian Peninsula, kept the lights on with renewable energy, and produced zero carbon emissions.

This landmark accomplishment came after a series of renewable energy milestones, which included providing 70 percent of nation’s electricity consumption from wind, solar and hydroelectric power during the entire first quarter of 2013.

Portugal’s Transition to Renewable Energy: Wind, Solar and Hydro Power


Back in 2001, Portugal faced rising and volatile fossil fuel prices which threatened to bankrupt the country’s economy. Blessed with abundant hydroelectric, wind, and solar resources, but virtually no fossil fuels, the government embarked on a long-term renewable energy program. Its aim was to reduce, and ultimately replace, fossil fuels in Portugal’s economy.

The program planned to accomplish this in three major ways: by reorganizing and renewing the electrical grid, by increasing energy efficiency, and by investing in combined wind and hydroelectric facilities. Although solar, biomass, and tidal power would also be in the mix, wind and hydro would provide the primary sources of energy.

To make this work, wind farms pumped up water behind dams during the windy evenings. Then the dam’s turbines used it to produce electricity during the day. The reduced purchase of fossil fuels paid for much of the cost of these investments.

Achievement in Alternative Power

Referring to Portugal’s accomplishment, James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe told The Guardian, “This is a significant achievement for a European country, but what seems extraordinary today will be commonplace in Europe in just a few years. The energy transition process is gathering momentum and records such as this will continue to be set and broken across Europe.”

Portugal’s renewable energy independence is an example of what is coming to other European nations. In Germany, solar, biomass and hydro energy could soon supply nearly all of the country’s power. Denmark, with abundant wind energy, is already generating an electricity surplus powered by wind. And Sweden has committed to have an oil-free economy by the year 2020. It’s fuel for thought, Canada.

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