Portugal’s contradictory decarbonization process
CORRESPONDENT IN LISBON
The double side of decarbonization is palpable in the open process in Portugal, since the closure of the Pego power plant has made the neighboring country the fourth in Europe to join this trend. However, the paradox has been installed throughout the strategy because this circumstance has not implied the eradication of the sources consumed with such origin.
The two main electricity companies that operate on the other side of the border, Endesa and the local EDP (Energía de Portugal), have jumped into the decarbonizing wave, which is gaining followers in geometric progression … but those same companies do maintain production based on coal in Spain.
This is the breeding ground for anachronism since Portugal imports 10% of the electricity it consumes from Spain, so the energy from coal continues to be used on Portuguese soil and, therefore, the cost has not disappeared. Without going any further, EDP itself continues to operate its power plant in Aboño (Asturias), as it supplies the surrounding heavy industry. Of course, the socialist government does not stop airing that “Portugal is a country committed to decarbonization”, one of the supposed emblems of the sustainable era.
The second part of the equation is hidden from the Portuguese, in order to show that the Portuguese territory is apparently ‘free’ of a load of this caliber. It is the same case as nuclear energy, with no power plants in Portugal, but which is part of the same 10% that is acquired from Spain.
In addition, the escalation of prices related to the different types of energy consumption has forced the operators to reinforce their production systems at a time of high demand. In other words, it does not seem the most appropriate time for Portugal to try to score the goal of a decarbonisation carried out overnight, without thinking that perhaps it could be precipitated. To top, some experts warn that high energy costs will not disappear, quite the contrary, with which the pocket of the citizens is going to suffer and inflation will continue to grow. In Portugal, it is already at 2.6% and in Spain it has shot up to 6.7%.
Manage the times
It is not a question of being for or against the much vaunted decarbonisation, because we are facing a step that gathers a general consensus. But it is a question of managing the times well, something that the Lusitanian country has skipped unceremoniously in order to appear on the prelude to the imaginary podium of the sector. And all because the emblematic EDP brought forward the deadline of 2023 by two years when it considered that its Sines plant, in the heart of Alentejo, had already ceased to be profitable.
So Spain looks to 2030 as the year in which decarbonization will be achieved, while the Iberian neighbors have started to leave their mark in this sense already in 2021 that has left us.
It is true that the Spanish coal plants have already submitted the pertinent request to the Socialist Government of Pedro Sánchez to close their doors as soon as possible, although the energy protocol requires certain deadlines and they have yet to await the resulting permit. Until then, these facilities must maintain their operation, redoubled in the current context with the intention of responding to today’s demand, taking into account that both the free and regulated markets are absolutely runaway throughout the entire Spanish territory. .
In fact, in Portugal they are surprised that records have been broken such as exceeding 300 euros per megawatt hour, a disproportionate reference that has not been reached at all in the homeland of fado.
The Portuguese experts of the sector emphasize that the galloping energy crisis of these days is the culprit that not the entire peninsula gets on the bandwagon of the trend.
More messages than real ambition
The years 2030 and 2050 mark the two key dates for Spain to continue its sustainable path with guarantees of success. In the long term, the goal is for green energy to corner what has so far been considered conventional to 10% of the market. The plan is drawn more ambitious than in Portugal, which for the moment has not made public its forecasts beyond the period comprised between now and eight years. The Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, does not stop boasting about having already closed the coal plants, but it hides that not producing energy with this root automatically entails paying more for what it acquires. Always with an eye on reducing CO2 emissions, for which one of the most pragmatic battles is to promote sustainable mobility, which has not been developed at all in Portuguese territory.