Should Portugal’s energy policy inspire the UK?
Portugal’s evolving energy policies continue to garner international attention from investors, industry, politicians and the media. Industrial market research firm SBI Energy has much to say about Portugal’s ‘sweeping clean energy initiatives’, including this:
The country is quickly emerging as a “green” trendsetter due to its determination to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels by channeling its wind, solar, and hydropower resources and by improving smart grid capabilities and exploring the use of electric vehicles—even though such clean energy transitions have come at substantial financial costs.
As a sometimes resident of both London and Lisbon – more couchsurfer than cosmopolitan expat – one can see the differences in both infrastructure and public consciousness. But regardless of differences in size and climate between the countries, political action on renewable energy measures are going in different directions in the UK and Portugal, as Syma Tariq’s opinion piece in the Observer points out:
But, even if the weather is bad most of the time, the UK also has its own favourable conditions. It has 10 times more coastline and benefits from plenty of wind throughout the year. If Portugal can increase its reliance on green electricity from 17% to 45% in just five years, our own leaders have little excuse for our measly 3%.
Back on Old Blighty, energy bills have gone up 14% when compared to Portugal’s rise of 16%, but with far less of an investment in – and transition to – renewable sources.
Some people hate feed-in-tariffs. George Monbiot severely criticized the UK’s FIT scheme last winter as rewarding the moneyed and giving little concrete results. The policy, launched in April by Labour, is being reviewed by Britain’s current Tory/Lib Dem government.
Perhaps the devil is in the details. Besides feed-in-tariffs, Portugal’s government took the bull by the horns, bought up the country’s privately owned power lines and has successfully modernized its energy infrastructure. Rather than relying on imported fossil fuels – it has none of its own – Portugal is becoming self sufficient in power by using what it does have: plenty of wind, hydro and solar.