Renewable energy is ‘sound investment’

By Chris Graeme [email protected]

In 1998, Dr. António Mexia moved to the energy sector, first as chairman of Galp Portugal and Transgas and then as executive chairman of Galp Energia. Between 2004 and 2005, he was the Minister for Public Works, before becoming chief executive officer of EDP (Energias de Portugal). During his tenure, the company has made significant investments in renewable energy. EDP purchased Horizon Wind Energy of Houston, Texas, in 2008 and in 2009 began construction of the Meadow  Lake Wind Park in the state of Indiana. This year, EDP signed a contract for the Moray Firth Offshore Wind Park off Scotland’s north east coast – all of this while maintaining EDP’s billion euros turnover in 2009.  

As known with renewable energy, the problem is not the source of the energy but rather the development of projects which will harvest that energy on a basis competitive with fossil fuels.

Renewable energy source technology is becoming so efficient and cost effective that solar, wind and dam based hydroelectric power is sounding the death knell for the ‘Age of Petroleum’, said Portugal’s foremost energy executive last week.

Addressing the American Club in Lisbon, Dr. António Mexia said that EDP’s huge investments in renewable energy were part of a vision that the sector should be driven by lower carbon intensive options in the fight against climate change.

Two years ago, the US had become the largest market for renewable energy sources in the world and, in turn, this capacity to invest and anticipate the market had made EDP a world leader in renewable energy sources.

“Thanks to this involvement in the States, we have become the third largest player in renewable in the world in just three years,” he said.

With projects in over 20 states in the US today, EDP represents the largest Portuguese investment ever made in that country.

Dr. Mexia explained why he believes renewable energy is the future. The first was that it was an indisputable reality with 700 billion euros of investment between 2004 and 2009 – investment that had duplicated 4.5 times worldwide.

Today, renewable energy is part of the solution for increased energy demands.

In Portugal, renewables have grown almost four times since 2004 and, by last year, Portugal was in the front line in terms of water and wind energy by supplying more than 70 per cent of energy from renewable sources.

Dr Mexia said it was a fundamental weapon in fighting climate change with the main goal for 2020 to increase energy efficiency, including from renewable sources, by 65 per cent. The second pillar was to have 18 per cent of Portugal’s energy needs supplied from renewable energy, mainly wind, by 2020.

The strategy for 2020 for Portugal is for a reduction in wealth transference abroad, from purchasing petroleum, by around two billion euros.

The plan is also to reduce energetic dependence from 84 per cent now to 64 per cent by 2020. Portugal is one the countries most dependent on outside energy sources in Europe.

Portugal is also the country with the most hydroelectric power development in Europe and was in the top five countries developing and investing in renewable energy sources in both solar and wind energy.

Renewable energy projects could create more than 100,000 new jobs by 2020, or 20 per cent of the current number of unemployed, said the EDP CEO, adding that if eolic power was taken, it had a cost very similar to traditional technology.

“There has been an enormous reduction in eolic technology cost-benefit ratio in recent years. Every 18 months, their capacity duplicates. Solar energy has seen costs come down by 30 to 40 per cent in just two years,” he said.

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