At the Climate Conference in Bonn on November 25, 2021 – 2017, the year 2030 was named with the goal of phasing out coal energy. In early 2020, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced that the last two remaining coal-fired power plants, Science and Pego, would cease to generate energy from coal in early 2023 and November 2021, respectively. It went hand in hand with the planning of a major new hydropower plant in the northern part of the country.
Six months later, operator EDP brought the shutdown of the Science Power Plant to January 2021. The rising cost of European emissions trading, the high tax burden, the low cost of gas at the time, and the long – term decarbonization strategy toward renewable energy have prompted EDP to take this step.
Portugal became the fourth country in Europe to phase out coal ten days earlier than planned, after it stopped burning coal at the Pego power plant earlier this week for district heating. In 2016, Belgium became the first European country. In 2020, Sweden and Austria followed suit. It will be in France in 2022, then in Great Britain in 2024, and in Italy, Ireland, Hungary and Greece in 2025. It goes on to list the NGO Europe Beyond Coal.
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Beyond coal, Kathryn Gutmann from Europe sees Portugal as a perfect example of how the announced coal expulsion will inevitably accelerate it. “The benefits of switching to renewable energies are enormous, which means getting out of coal as soon as the switch starts,” Gutman says.
After Norway, no other country now produces renewable energy like Portugal. In the first quarter of this year, the country generated 79.5 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy, followed by hydropower (44 per cent) and wind power (28 per cent). During this period, solar energy accounted for less than two percent.
But the example of a solar park in Portugal Algarve shows that this area is also expanding and profitable. With 700,000 modules and 219 megawatts of electricity, the park is the largest solar system in Europe without government funding. The development of photovoltaics is important in view of the recurring periods of drought affecting hydropower generation.
After hydropower and wind power, natural gas was the most important energy supplier for power generation in the first quarter of 2021. Guttmann warns against continuing to depend on and develop this form of energy. Coal-fired power plants have the potential to be converted to gas or non-sustainable biomass.
In fact, the operator of the Pego power plant, the Spanish company Endez, plans to convert it to the combustion of wood pellets. Francisco Ferrero, president of the Portuguese organization Zero, is disappointed with the plans. “It is a special day for Portugal to say goodbye to coal, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But it is being implemented in a plan to burn forests at the power plant, ”Ferreira said.
Converted biomass power plants require a lot of energy that cannot be generated from wood waste alone, so there is a possibility of burning wood from previously undamaged habitat. In Germany, plans were made to build the Hamburg coal-fired power station Tiefstack following protests from environmental groups. Should be avoided first. mf
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