Portugal made history earlier this year when the country’s renewable energy sources generated enough power to exceed the country’s monthly consumption, according to Portugal’s transmission system operator, REN. The country’s last record, from 2014, was an average of 99.2 percent of renewable energy generation for the month. March 2018 surpassed that record with the average renewable generation of the month exceeding 103 percent of consumption. According to REN, the renewable energy conditions of Portugal were consistent during the first quarter of 2018, or from January to March.
55 percent of March’s energy consumption was generated by the country’s hydroelectric dams and 42 percent from wind power, and Portugal doesn’t plan to stop there. The nation declared that it’s mainland electricity needs will be met by renewables by the year 2040. However, the topic of renewable energy is still largely debated on both sides with many wondering if 100 percent renewable energy is even possible for an extended amount of time.
Although it is noted that March is typically a good time to set renewable records (due to robust winds, melting snow, torrential rains, and limited electricity demand), renewables only supplied 6 percent of Portugal’s electricity consumption in the same period last year (March 2017).
While there is still a lot of work to be done and research to be studied before we see renewable energy sources as the leading standard for all countries, Portugal’s feat has shown that 100 percent renewable energy is in fact possible.
Portugal’s Renewable Energy Association (APREN) asserted that “the data, besides indicating a historical milestone in the Portuguese electricity sector, demonstrate the technical viability, security, and reliability of the operation of the Electrical System, with a large share of renewable electricity.”
Although this was a colossal feat accomplished, it does not mean that the country avoided the use of fossil fuels. While renewable sources generated enough energy to exceed the country’s overall energy demand, the demand didn’t necessarily coincide with the time that the renewables were produced. Therefore, natural gas and coal plants were used. Altogether, 31 percent of consumption was met with wind, 24 percent with hydroelectric, 22 percent was met with natural gas, and 17 percent with coal.
There is no doubt that there is more work to be done before we see renewable energy sources used more commonly. Nevertheless, Portugal’s engineers and companies have been recognized as global players in the race towards 100 percent renewable energy.