Portugal is forging ahead with phasing out fossil fuels to help save the planet from global warming. Thanks to strong winds, plenty of bright sunshine, and even lots of rain in parts of the country, Portugal is in the forefront of expanding the use of renewable sources to produce electricity.
The United Nations COP28 summit in the oil producing United Arab Emirates spent a week wrangling over the wording of “phasing out” in the final version of its agreement. It eventually managed to agree on the much weaker term “transition from” fossil fuels because “phasing out” did not suit the countries producing oil, natural gas or coal.
Portugal is on course to generate 85% of the country’s electricity by 2030. In the year just ended, it reached a record 61%. That was up from 49% the year before. It most certainly is “phasing out,” meaning “ending” fossil fuels, yet it is still reliant to a degree, for example, on natural gas imported from Algeria and Nigeria. Larger European countries have been importing natural gas from the world’s biggest supplier, Russia, but this is being discontinued because of rising gas prices since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Last year, wind produced 25% of Portugal’s electricity needs, while 23% came from hydro power, 7% from solar and 6% from biomass. That’s according to REN, the company that manages the Portuguese power grid.
The share of renewables on Germany’s grid rose by 6.6% in 2023 to a total of 55.0%, the sector’s regulator has announced this week. Europe’s largest economy has abandoned nuclear power and plans to stop the use of coal. It aims to depend on green energy for 80% of its energy needs by 2030.
Renewables provided just 38.4% of the energy in United Kingdom in the 12 months to December 2023. Wind provided 27.9%, biomass 4.8%, solar 4.5% and hydro 1.1%. Fossil fuels were the source of 33.1% in the mix, with gas leading with 32.1% and coal 1.0%. The UK has made progress over the past decade by reducing its use of fossil fuels from 58.1% to 31.1%, but a great increase in renewables will be needed if its 2035 target to decarbonise the electricity system is to be met.
In the United States the share of electricity generated from renewable sources has continued to rise, especially from biofuels, solar and wind. In what was hailed as a “new milestone,” renewables accounted for a quarter of US electricity generated in the first half of last year, slightly higher than in 2022.
The use of abundant, clean renewable sources of energy is now unstoppable. Hopefully it will bring an end as soon as possible to the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing dramatic and highly destructive climate change across the world. Scientists say that ending the fossil fuel industry and achieving genuine net zero carbon emission targets is the only hope of a liveable climate.