Pego's coal-fired plant was officially closed down in November last year

Closure of Portugal’s coal-fired power plants showed “complete lack of strategic perception”, says former director of energy

Further criticism of the government’s energetic transition ‘virtue signalling’ has come from former director general of energy Mário Guedes. He joins others in pointing to the closure of Portugal’s coal-fired power plants at Pego and Sines having been dangerously precipitous.

The country is already importing gas produced by coal-fired plants in other countries – and with the drought purportedly prompting the suspension of hydroelectric operations in five dams, Portugal is suddenly in a state of energetic dependence “unseen for decades”.

Writing an opinion article in Observador, Mário Guedes suggests the two situations are directly connected.

Analysis of data shows why the levels in dams are lower than normal, he writes: it was because they were being used to produce extra hydroelectric power over the last four months of 2021 because Pego and Sines were being mothballed.

“The year 2024 was always pointed to the year from which (Portugal) it would make sense to abdicate the incorporation of coal (from the country’s energy production). At that date the three dams of the Tâmega, belonging to Iberdrola, would enter in to maximum production, to which would also be added a number of solar plants, still under construction. All this would have allowed us to cover the absence of coal and truly permit /(the country) to realise a sustainable and just energetic transition”.

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the current dilemma is “the complete absence of strategic perception” by government leaders.

For example, Spain “in spite of having coal-fired plants a great deal less efficient than those in Portugal, have not yet shut them and are now serving the Portuguese electrical system, which is thus highly dependent on Spanish coal”, and paying handsomely for the privilege.

This was the criticism earlier this year (click here).

If these considerations were not bad enough, Mário Guedes concludes: you could say the Portuguese economy is simply “throwing money out of the window”.

According to Correio da Manhã, the ministry of the environment and energetic transition has refuted Mr Guedes’ claims, suggesting the correlation between the closure of the coal-fired stations and low levels of dams used for power generation has been based on “incorrect data”.