Portugal may have stopped producing electrical energy powered by the burning of coal (an ‘advance’ for which there was much self-congratulation) – but it continues to import energy from countries using coal to produce it.
This rather self-defeating state of affairs has been highlighted today by national tabloid Correio da Manhã.
The paper recalls how the PS government announced last year that it was ‘accelerating’ the decarbonisation of the economy by closing the EDP plant in Sines and the Endesa plant in Pego (Abrantes).
“But these companies continue to produce electrical energy from the burning of coal in Spain, which is then consumed by the Portuguese”, explains CM.
Admittedly, the importation of coal-powered energy is ‘low’. For example, last year Portugal “acquired more than 9,600 tons from Spain of a total of 10,770 tons of this fossil fuel that was imported.
“In other words, Portugal has ‘decarbonised’ in terms of production, but not in consumption.
“Oil and its derivatives continue to be the most-consumed source of energy in Portugal”, it is simply now that it comes more from other countries: more than half is imported from Spain, while countries like Russia, Nigeria and the United States sell us natural gas, biomass and coal-powered energy.
When it comes to the production of renewable energy, the most recent data from the DGEG (general directorate of energy and geology) shows that 42% is created from hydroelectricity, followed by 39% created by wind farms.
650 workers affected by Portugal’s step-back from coal
The closure of the coal-powered plants of Sines and Pego affected 650 workers (550 in the Alentejo and 150 in the Ribatejo).
In Sines, “many have still not found new work”, writes CM – adding that the Alentejo is already a region “with a high rate of unemployment and very little in terms of opportunities”.
Some of the Sines’ workers have been placed in other EDP power plants.
In the case of Pego, “the workers received compensation attributed by the Environmental Fund as an alternative to unemployment, but they are obliged to frequent training programmes in order to receive it”, says CM.
Meantime, the issue of nuclear energy and natural gas ‘being considered sustainable’ for Europe still floats ominously in the air.
Portuguese environmentalists have challenged the government to show its thinking in this regard – particularly when it comes to natural gas (click here) – but to date there has been no published response.