Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
A few notes on the issues discussed here so far:

Most of that wind capacity expected for 2020 is already being commissioned, so it is more or less guaranteed, plus wind is popular. As for the dams nothing seems that solid right now; the Socialists had been for it for some time but the real push came from the President (a liberal ex-prime minister). There is great opposition from the remainder of the left, especially the Greens, but even at the right I do not see much enthusiasm; if this government falls to be replaced by a Liberal/Conservative coalition it might not be easy to go ahead with it; with a Liberal majority it might be possible.

The new dam programme is absolutely paramount to take full advantage of the coming wind, and later on solar, capacity. The Greens have been mildly successful at inducing public weariness of Hydropower, just as they did in the past with Nuclear. They say these dams could be replaced by wind, without specifying how storage and load balancing would be made. These new dams are also very important to start reducing Coal imports, actually the only objective option to do so at the moment beyond Nuclear.

Portugal is such a dry place that a few years back had the second largest water consumption per capita in the EU. South of the Tagus, in the region of Alentejo, there are some issues of irrigation mainly due to questionable choices of culture; this is pure cork oak country, but some insist in other things that get  money back sooner. Droughts happen occasionally, if I recall correctly, in 2004 the Guadiana (one of the largest rivers of the Peninsula) almost went dry after a strain of several months without proper rain; but these are rare events, fortunately. Alqueva was finished just after that, providing steady water supplies to most of eastern Alentejo. Irrigation was always the main objective of building Alqueva, not electricity per se.

In fact, at least half of Portugal's hydroelectric potential is unused, which is close to a crime. Certainly the environmental impacts are there, but methods exist to deal with them. To the awe of many, Portugal was the first state to finish a dam fully compliant with the Water Framework Directive, in a time when most member states where still questioning if after this Directive building new dams was even possible. And this was accomplished with Alqueva, that created the largest artificial water body in Europe.

As for transport the Socialist government actually as a plan, sort of. It's a combination of TGV with electric cars and imported bio-diesel. I wont waste my latin with the former. As for electric cars I'm still waiting to see what the proposals by Renault or Mitsubishi are bringing of new comparatively to early XX century electric vehicles; I have a 150 Km bike ride tomorrow, Renault's car can't do something like that. Finally the TGV, this project is still on rails but hanging by a thread, the Socialists are the only party at parliament that support it, everyone else is against it, for this or that mindless reason. Contracts are signed and works should start next year on the Lisbon-Madrid line; later on links from Oporto to Vigo and from Algarve to Seville should be contracted too. If this government is overthrown before that I fear none of it will ever get build... For the TGV to work it will need the commitment from Spain, which with Zapatero is more or less guaranteed, and France for one or two Trans-Pyrenean links. So far the will has been there for all of this to come into place, but who knows what happens if some smart ass gets into government.

There are two obviously flaws with the government's Energy/Transport policy (a) freight transport (b) Coal. Freight transport is the sector where a shift away from fossil fuels can be accomplished with lesser impacts on daily lives. Proper mid-speed rail lines linking to the Pyrenees (which might be accomplished by upgrading existing ones) and the correct incentives to rail a shiping should do it. Certainly, it might mean the re-absorption of many hauling industry workers, but they can be diverted to the new rail or shipping industries. As for Coal, it is the visible part of a larger problem, replacing fossil fuel electric baseload generation. Especially if the private car fleet is shifted to electric the renewable programme might not be enough. Either another large-scale renewable is brought into maturity to complement wind, say solar or tidal/wave, or Nuclear is inevitable. No politician seems ready to take either option.

Portugal is both the worst and best place to be at this stage, one of the most dependent states on foreign energy, but possibly the one with the best prospects for renewables.


by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 03:44:09 PM EST

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