Portugal ran on 100% renewable energy for a week

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Portugal broke new records for the amount of energy produced from renewable sources: for 149 hours straight, the nation’s energy demands for home and industry consumption were met.

Over a period of six days, from 4:00 AM on October 31st to 9:00 AM on November 6th, 1102 GWh were produced, exceeding the 840 GWh national consumption for the same time by 262 GWh. The previous best, which was set in 2019, was 131 hours.

There were two additional milestones reached in the 149-hour timeframe. In the first, for 131 consecutive hours between 10:00 PM on October 31st and 9:00 AM on November 6th, renewable energy production nearly tripled the previous record from 2021 by surpassing the needs of the National Electric System (including the requirements for pumping in hydroelectric reservoirs) without using conventional thermal power generation, specifically Natural Gas Combined Cycle Plants.

The second milestone was reached between 10:00 AM on November 1st and 9:00 AM on November 5th. During those 95 consecutive hours, Portugal was able to export electricity to Spain, breaking the previous record of 52 hours set in 2018, and renewable production exceeded consumption without the need for Natural Gas Combined Cycle Plants.

These noteworthy accomplishments attest to Portugal’s sustainable trajectory in gradually incorporating domestic renewable sources while retaining the two significant goals of service quality and supply security.

Hugo Costa, who oversees Portugal for EDP Renewables said:

“The gas plants were there, waiting to dispatch energy, should it be needed. It was not, because the wind was blowing; it was raining a lot and we were producing with a positive impact to the consumers because the prices have dropped dramatically, almost to zero.”

Countries must operate their grids carbon-free for the whole year, not only for three or six days, in order to meet the climate targets set out in the Paris Agreement by 2050. A few nations already do this because of their abundant hydropower reserves, which were mostly established long before the climate problem influenced choices on power plant investments. Those with large fleets of nuclear power facilities score well on carbon-free electricity.

Portugal belongs to a distinct and more relevant category: it began its decarbonization path with some hydropower from its past, but it has no nuclear capacity and no ambitions to create any. This meant that it had to work out how to maximize new renewables while reducing the usage of fossil fuels.

How was this made possible by Portugal? It pledged in 2016 to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, many years ahead of the European Union as a whole, and committed to developing renewables often and early. In 2022, Portugal’s last coal-fired power stations will close, leaving (imported) fossil gas as a backup source for electricity on demand.

Portugal’s grid decarbonization project has to decrease and eventually eliminate the number of hours that the nation has to use gas in order to keep the lights on. By 2040, officials want to totally phase out gas generating, which accounted for 21% of the power used from January to October.

Portugal has concentrated on diversifying its renewable energy sources to meet its climate targets; rather than relying just on the sun, wind, or water, it incorporates each into its portfolio and looks for methods to make them work better together. To make the most of the greatest sites, the nation’s power firms are now pursuing significantly more offshore wind prospects, growing solar installations, and repowering existing onshore wind projects.

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