The Rapid Rise of Solar Power in Portugal
As with most inspiring stories, once upon a time, Portugal was one of the poorest countries in Western Europe despite its rich and unique culture, lively cities, and gorgeous countryside and beaches.
Although all the richness it possesses remains, it is anything but a poor country now because renewable energy has transformed both its landscape and its economic potential.
Just five years ago, the leaders on this Iberian Peninsular nation decided to reduce Portugal's dependence on imported foreign fossil fuels by embarking on a bold new plan: aggressively harnessing the country's natural wind and hydro-power, while also developing ways to harness power generated from sunlight and ocean waves.
Today, the capital, Lisbon's, trendy bars, Porto's factories, the Algarve's glamorous resorts, are significantly powered by clean energy. Nearly 45% of the electricity in Portugal's grid will be harnessed from renewable sources this year, an increase from 17% just five years ago.
Land-based wind power has expanded sevenfold in that time.
By 2011, Portugal expects to become the fist country in Europe to inaugurate a national network of charging stations for electric cars.
The example of Portugal proves that it is possible to make significant changes in 5 years.
As with all things in life, the push to build the infrastructure for renewable energy was difficult at first. Resistance came from scores of citizens, politicians, and naysayers unwilling to pay more for electricity.
In response, the government restructured and privatized former state energy facilities to create a grid that's more efficient and more suited to renewable power sources. Then, to encourage private companies to take part in the switch to renewable, clean electricity, the government gave them contracts locking in a stable price for 15 years — a subsidy that varied by technology and was initially high, but decreased with each new round of contract.Continued on the next page