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An aerial view of Portugal's Vilarinho da Furna dam. Image: Shutterstock

An aerial view of Portugal’s Vilarinho da Furna dam. Image: Shutterstock


The Inertia

Portugal reported recently that their renewable electricity generation exceeded demand for the first time. Over the month of March, renewables supplied 104 percent of the country’s electricity. It should be noted, however, that Portugal’s situation is unique. As a small country with a relatively small population, their energy demands are much smaller than many other countries—but still, it should be seen as an encouraging milestone.

Isn’t it funny that we have all these options to power our lives but, for the most part, we still burn a bunch of shit that’s quickly running out and becoming more and more difficult to access? Well, not exactly funny in the ha ha sense, but funny in the weird sense because it just seems so incredibly stupid.

Of course, as should be expected in these relatively early days of renewables, there were a few days when the country resorted to using fossil fuels, but overall, hydroelectric and wind were the main suppliers.

“At a minimum, 86 percent of the electricity demand was supplied by renewables (March 7), reaching a maximum of 143 percent (on March 11),” IFLScience‘s Robin Andrews explained. “Hydroelectric power (55 percent) and wind (42 percent) provided most of the monthly consumption of renewables.”

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The report comes from a group called ZERO, a Portuguese Renewable Energy Association and sustainability group. As you may well know, Portugal has one of the most ambitious energy goals in the world. They’re aiming to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2050, and so far, they’re pretty much on track.

As encouraging as Portugal’s feat is, replicating it in larger, more densely populated countries isn’t exactly possible. With some 10 million people calling the country home, it’s far smaller than, say, the United States, which has around 325 million. Also working in Portugal’s favor is the abundance of hydroelectricity, which requires certain things. “Not every nation aiming for low-carbon electrical grids have access to the topographic features or engineering funds and abilities required for hydroelectricity,” Andrews wrote. “Costa Rica, for example, does have it; plenty of green-focused nations in Europe, however, do not. It’s also worth pointing out that extremely heavy rainfall hit Portugal in March, which indubitably filled its hydroelectric reservoirs up to optimum levels.”

Despite that, it is still encouraging. Nothing worth doing, as they say, comes easy, but it seems that many countries have recognized both the need for renewable energy and the possible economic benefits an entirely new industry could bring.