(UR) Portugal — Following Germany’s recent announcement that clean energy had met nearly all of its electricity needs for an entire day, Portugal has just set a zero emission milestone by powering the country for 107 hours using only renewable energy sources.
From the morning of May 7 until the evening of May 11, Portugal ran solely on wind, solar, and hydro power. And while impressive, it’s hardly surprising. The feat falls directly in line with a trend taking place in the country, which met nearly half of its 2015 electricity needs with clean energy.
“This is a significant achievement for a European country,” James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe, told The Guardian, “but what seems extraordinary today will be commonplace in Europe in just a few years. The energy transition process is gathering momentum and records such as this will continue to be set and broken across Europe.”
In Germany on May 8 — a particularly sunny and windy day — renewable energy sources produced roughly 80 percent of the power being consumed in the country. From 7AM to 5PM, in fact, the price of power actually went negative — meaning people were essentially being paid to use electricity.
On a day in June last year, wind farms in Denmark produced 140 percent of the country’s electricity demand. And Denmark wasn’t the only country who benefited, as 80 percent of the energy surplus was shared equally with Germany and Norway. The remaining 20 percent went to Sweden.
“It shows that a world powered 100% by renewable energy is no fantasy,” Oliver Joy of the European Wind Energy Association said of the remarkable event. “Wind energy and renewables can be a solution to de-carbonization — and also security of supply at times of high demand.”
Given encouraging strides such as these in the march toward a world fueled by clean energy technologies, it’s curious that some countries — particularly those in Europe — would move away from renewables while doubling down on fossil fuels. But that’s precisely what’s happening in the U.K.
At the tail end of 2015, Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change announced it would be cutting 65 percent of renewable energy subsidies. This came just five days after nearly 200 countries, including the U.K., signed a historic agreement to work toward ending fossil fuel dependency.
From Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech at the climate summit:
“What I’m saying is that instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today.”
Even more curious is that Cameron attended such a conference in the first place. Just weeks before the summit, the U.K. government announced plans to have a new nuclear power plant built at Hinkley Point, a headland on the coast of Somerset, England.
All these events are put into even greater perspective when one considers the findings of a recent report published by multinational consulting firm Ernst & Young. According to the report, the price of producing renewable energies is falling so sharply that they may soon achieve “grid parity” — the point where production costs are equal to or less than that of traditional energy sources.
And when that happens, Ernst & Young claims, all bets are off. From the report:
“Once it becomes economic over the long term to install renewable energy and storage technology without subsidies, uptake will accelerate beyond the control of incumbents and the authorities as the free market takes over.”
With Portugal having just powered its grid for four days using renewable energy alone, it seems the time when the planet’s addiction to fossil fuels has been kicked for good is growing more and more conceivable — regardless of how slow certain entrenched interests are to embrace it.
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