Renewable Energy: Portugal’s Achievement

Don’t miss the article today in the New York Times on the rapid increase in the proportion of renewable energy in Portugal’s economy. 

Several points should be emphasized:

(1) The rapidity of the increase in the proportion of renewable energy in Portugal’s energy budget (17% to nearly 45% in five years);

(2) The fact that it followed privatization of government-run facilities;

(3) The fact that it is associated with a substantial rise in energy prices, which in Portugal are about double those common in the United States; and

(4) Portugal was well situated to use solar, wind, and hydroelectric power and has few fossil fuel resources.  Not every country has the same potential, and hydroelectric in particular carries environmental costs of another order.

Nevertheless, Portugal’s experience shows that a switch to renewable energy rapidly is possible if a country is willing to pay the price of higher immediate costs.  Or, perhaps, I should say apparent costs, since all the costs of using fossil fuels are not calculated into the current price structure.  Nevertheless, apparent costs drive political perceptions.

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