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70% 60% electricity from renewables? Yes we can!

by Luis de Sousa Mon Sep 13th, 2010 at 07:10:49 AM EST

PortugalElectricityMix2010

Yesterday an acquaintance of mine sent me a link to an article about electricity generation in Portugal. This article claims that in this state the share of renewables in the electricity mix will be over 45% this year. I was well aware that things have been going quite well with Wind, but that figure seemed a bit on the bright side. So I went checking at the National Grid's website, to my startlement, not 50%, but over 60% of the electricity used in Portugal during the first 7 months of 2010 came from renewable, indigenous sources. Even in July, a month during which pluviosity is about 0 and atmospheric circulation is at its slowest phase, renewables accounted for almost 40% of the mix. And this is not some micro-state or wind battered isle, it is a respectable piece of land that 10 million souls call home.

Promoted by Colman. Who repeated a piece of text to make an intro.


Key to graph:
Imp - Imports
Hidr - Hydroelectric
PRE Eol - Wind
PRE Outros - Others in the special regime, about half Renewables
Carvão - Coal
Fuel - Fuel Oil
Gás - Natural Gas

[UPDATE 11-09-2010] Thanks to DoDo it is now identified that the special regime includes co-generation. By an e-mail from Hannes Kunz it is possible to situate that in about half of the "PRE Outros" slice.

Yesterday an acquaintance of mine sent me a link to an article about electricity generation in Portugal. This article claims that in this state the share of renewables in the electricity mix will be over 45% this year. I was well aware that things have been going quite well with Wind, but that figure seemed a bit on the bright side. So I went checking at the National Grid's website, to my startlement, not 50%, but 70% but over 60% of the electricity used in Portugal during the first 7 months of 2010 came from renewable, indigenous sources. Even in July, a month during which pluviosity is about 0 and atmospheric circulation is at its slowest phase, renewables accounted for 44% almost 40% of the mix. And this is not some micro-state or wind battered isle, it is a respectable piece of land that 10 million souls call home.

But before lighting the fireworks it is important to understand why this happened. Basically, the Winter and Spring of 2010 were the dampest I can recall; the Meteorological Institute keeps the statistics to itself, so I can't compare the first semester of 2010 with previous years, but of one thing I'm certain it rained and rained. Total pluviosity might have not been that different, but the number of overcast and rainy days was way over the norm. By April my bike had very little kilometrage and my legs were still week; my balcony's walls got all covered by fungi and I had to repaint in the Summer. Most folk I know complained about fungi showing up in unheard places (clothing, walls, etc), beyond the usual spots.

Climate note: this sort of weather is typical of a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The NAO was persistently negative from December through May, possibly meaning that the North Atlantic aerologic unit has been tracing more continental paths, thus weakening the Azores Anti-cyclonic Agglutination.

It is also important to note that Portugal has no serious heavy industry and Transport is almost 100% reliable on Oil. A Railroad network exists but it is slower and more expensive than travelling by car. And in solidarity with its fellow PIIGS, Portugal extracts more than half of its energy from fully imported Oil products. So Electricity doesn't have the weight it has in the energy mix of other states.

So why are these figures relevant? For two orders of reasons: first of all they fly in the face of those sceptical of renewables scalability and maturity. The Wind park in Portugal was enacted essentially since 2005, along which time the Grid suffered major upgrades both on infrastructure as on managing mechanisms (for a somewhat rosy account of events see the post linked in the beginning). And secondly, and perhaps more importantly, renewables clearly penetrate into the traditional baseload, reducing Coal to a puny slice in the graph. This last point flies in my own face, contradicting my own scepticism towards the possibility of intermittent sources impacting baseload. It also shows that the three-class Germanic perspective of electricity generation maybe more consonant with an high renewable reliant electricity mix.

All of this came at price of course: 12.6 cents per kwh. This figure is today almost the double of the feed-in tariff for Wind (7.5 cents per kwh) meaning that the upgraded grid is a relevant cost of having this sort of energy mix. But here another detail must be noted, the National Grid Operator was privatized a few years back; now called Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN), it operates the electricity transmission infrastructure in its entirety. REN is one of the most profitable companies in Portugal, posting before tax earnings of 240 million € in 2008 (over 1% of GDP). But we'll talk again ten years from now when Natural Gas will be 0.€€ per kwh.

And so we go in this sea-side planted land. Times are rough, but not everything is bad news.

Display:
Where does the 17% of electricity that's renewable but not from wind or hydro come from?

Is this wave power?  Solar? Geothermal?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Fri Sep 10th, 2010 at 07:21:45 PM EST
I was wondering about the same; but my guess is that most of it is thermal plants firing biofuels.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 10th, 2010 at 07:34:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Upon checking, they include co-generation (heating+electricity) in the special regime, so, if PRE = special regime, a significant part (probably most) of "PRE Outros" is non-renewable.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 10th, 2010 at 07:40:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for some reason, I was thinking that Portugal had a large paper manufacturing sector, and I wonder if this is what that is.  In the US, Maine has a lot of plants fired off of residues from paper factories.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Fri Sep 10th, 2010 at 07:42:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, surely there is a typo here:

Natural Gas will be 0.€€ per kwh.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 10th, 2010 at 07:35:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not a typo. I meant an unknown figure of relevant size.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Mon Sep 13th, 2010 at 12:46:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most of that is small scale Hydro with some Biomass too. I would check the National Grid statistics but the site is down.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Sat Sep 11th, 2010 at 02:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been wondering, is that biomass forest residue, from crops, or?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Sep 12th, 2010 at 03:20:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have the statistics, but in the hilliest parts of the country there are a few folk making a living out of forest residues .

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Mon Sep 13th, 2010 at 12:49:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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