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Portugal Gives Itself a Clean-Energy Makeover

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the fresh-start dept.

Earth 368

daem0n1x writes "It appears that some countries in oil-poor Europe are making a successful transition to renewable energy at a fast and steady pace. This article talks about the small country of Portugal on the West Coast of Europe, known for its white sand beaches, oranges, fish, and wines. Portugal has no oil, but lots of sun and wind. Five years ago, the government decided, against many dissenting voices, to invest massively in taking advantage of the country's natural resources in clean energy. The results are here. It used to be a heavy energy importer, but now it exports it."

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Ahead of the game - we should leran from them (1)

LifesRoadie (1342921) | more than 4 years ago | (#33224990)

Brilliant place!

Re:Ahead of the game - we should leran from them (1)

CTU (1844100) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225000)

It is very good...stay away from Oil and use something a little more cleaner

the best part is... (3, Interesting)

laktech (998064) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225012)

"The United States, which last year generated less than 5 percent of its power from newer forms of renewable energy, will lag behind..." Drill baby, drill.

Re:the best part is... (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225184)

Portugal, you mean that country that's less than 1/3 the population of California? Surely what works for them will work for us, right?

Re:the best part is... (5, Interesting)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225246)

Portugal, you mean that country that's less than 1/3 the population of California? Surely what works for them will work for us, right?

Actually, Portugal has a population density of 115.129 inhabitants per square Km. USA: 32.191 inhabitants per square Km. So yes, what works for us in this case should work 3 times better for USA since you have 3 times more area per inhabitant to produce wind energy and gather sun energy.

Re:the best part is... (3, Informative)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225344)

your population density citation actually works *against* your argument. Large landmass + sparsely populated areas = big time power transmission problems.... e.g. try sending power from windmills in Kansas to New York

Best practice would be to utilize whatever resources is abundant locally, and for places that don't have any resources (like the East Coast), build nuclear plants.

Drill Baby Drill is a loser's mantra. Oil is too precious a resource to waste on an idiot's whim. The smart man's mantra is Nuke baby Nuke.

Oil is truly a gift from the Gods (or the dinosaurs if you aren't religious) to waste on making electricity and running cars... these can be done with other things. Years from now when the oil is gone, and the rest of the world is lumbering around steamboats, we Americans could be flying in style in our supersonic 797's.

Re:the best part is... (2, Insightful)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225382)

You do know that the cities in USA are much more populated than in EU where the population is much more spread out around the country right? So actually the argument works even more against you.

I do agree in the nuclear point though. We can and should use it here in Portugal.

Re:the best part is... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225450)

EU Population: 501m
Area: 4.3m km^2

US Population: 307m
Area: 9.8m km^2

Re:the best part is... (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225458)

You missed his point. Most of the viable solar energy, and large portions of the viable wind energy, are located nowhere near one of the major hubs of the US. Just "switching to solar and wind" doesn't work for the area from Boston to DC; there wouldn't be enough of the renewable energy to go around, especially considering there's hardly any open space for that whole 500 mile stretch. It's all populated at least moderately densely; what would be called heavy suburban and urban areas.

Re:the best part is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225644)

You missed his point. Most of the viable solar energy, and large portions of the viable wind energy, are located nowhere near one of the major hubs of the US.

It always rains in California. :(

Re:the best part is... (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225718)

Even though you get plenty of sunshine out there, here's the reason why there are multiple states in the US (rather than the monolithic organizations seen in many other parts of the first world): It's so large that the same conditions don't apply to the entire country, whether it's due to demographic or environmental reasons.

Re:the best part is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225576)

Years from now when the oil is gone, and the rest of the world is lumbering around steamboats, we Americans could be flying in style in our supersonic 797's.

Really? What will we power those 797s with, electric motors or nuclear reactors?

Re:the best part is... (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225674)

Ion electric engines.

Re:the best part is... (0, Redundant)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225690)

Oil is too precious a resource to waste on an idiot's whim. The smart man's mantra is Nuke baby Nuke.

[America saves its precious oil for the future, by making electricity and running cars on other things besides oil]

Years from now when the oil is gone [from the rest of the world], and the rest of the world is lumbering around steamboats, we Americans could be flying in style in our supersonic 797's.

Re:the best part is... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225300)

No, because you're way more backwards then they are. And stupid.

Re:the best part is... (5, Informative)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225332)

The number of things wrong with the article summary almost defies imagination. As you've pointed out, Portugal is a small country -- about the size of Maine or Indiana. It has ten million people and a remarkably benign climate (the record low in Lisbon is 30F. The record high a bit over 100F) that results in virtually no use of energy for heating and cooling. It had one of the lowest, if not the lowest, per capita use of energy of any developed country BEFORE upgrading it's energy infrastructure.

They also have -- as the article does point out -- very high energy costs, which means that renewable energy projects that might be economic disasters in the US or Canada are economically viable in Portugal.

It's NOT a typical country.

Moreover, Portugal is in no way, shape or form a net energy exporter. The still import very large amounts of North African oil and gas. They export a very small amount of electricity sometimes.

One suspects that their success in dealing with wind power is due more to the very high amount of (imported) natural gas powered electric generation rather than hydro or pumped storage. The natural gas plants can easily be modulated to match load to demand and to accept the full amount of power generated by renewable sources.

This is not to denigrate their accomplishments in getting useful amounts of renewable power on line and in upgrading their power grid. But comparing their energy infrastructure with that of the US is virtually meaningless.

Thank you. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225460)

Thanks for the EXCELLENT comment.

Re:the best part is... (5, Informative)

bazorg (911295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225758)

I'm from Portugal and mostly agree with this The changes in energy production in my country could be a useful case study for individual states in the USA, most likely not for the whole country. Most population and industries in Portugal are close to the Atlantic and the wind/solar farms if they are at the opposite end of the territory will be less than 250 miles away.

The main company in that energy/electricity market there sates on their website with a very clear chart [www.edp.pt] that their capacity is about 9675MW per year. In 2009, some 4500MW of this total were generated by river dams and 5400MW by thermal sources. These are plants that burn natural gas imported from Algeria and oil from wherever it's sourced. The total capacity available to harvest from wind farms is 595MW per year, which indeed doubled since 2006.

I would be quite surprised if recent developments since 2009 allowed for what the summary says, that Portugal "used to be a heavy energy importer, but now it exports it". In any case, with the climate we have in South Europe, harvesting sun power for electricity should be a no-brainer.

Re:the best part is... (2, Insightful)

The Hatchet (1766306) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225764)

I also thank you, a very good set of points. America uses an insane amount of power, and I am certainly part of it, but it is what it is. Hopefully we can continue to make electronics use less electricity to do more, I know my current computer has more than 200x the processing ability of my old one, but uses the same amount of power. Hopefully our society will find more ways to improve efficiency and drop energy consumption, and find new ways of generating power. And hey, with any luck we will find room temperature superconductors (I am telling you, just add boron(haha)). It would be especially nice if we actually started building houses and buildings properly, to take advantage of the environment to minimize the need for heating and cooling. Until then.

But really, I was going to post the exact same thing, except more in terms of significantly lower energy use per capita, without details. Great explanation.

Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225018)

Well maybe not, electricity is still cheap in the US. Keep burning coal it has been working for me rather well so far.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (4, Insightful)

Avin22 (1438931) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225064)

That is the issue though. The summary mentions how Portugal is poor in oil but has a great deal of potential for solar and wind. This implies that by using sun and wind to create electricity somehow oil usage will drop. While I heavily support the switch to alternative fuels, this is just not true. Most oil is used for transportation rather than electricity. So the only way to save oil by switching to solar or wind is to use electric cars, which in general are not popular enough to be a heavy drain on the power grid. People really do need to learn the difference between electricity generation and oil usage, if nothing else just to make an informed decision when creating policy.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (2, Informative)

t0y (700664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225112)

Working on it. FTA:

And Portugal expects in 2011 to become the first country to inaugurate a national network of charging stations for electric cars.

A difficult step, yes, but without creating the market private companies won't jump in and invest.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (5, Insightful)

macshit (157376) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225118)

This implies that by using sun and wind to create electricity somehow oil usage will drop. While I heavily support the switch to alternative fuels, this is just not true. Most oil is used for transportation rather than electricity. So the only way to save oil by switching to solar or wind is to use electric car.

Or, even better, just don't use cars at all. Rail, after all, works splendidly with electricity.

Ok, so quitting the car habit is a hard task in the sprawltastic U.S., but much of Europe is quite suited to better transportation mechanisms.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225198)

...which creates an even more ample and cheaper supply of oil for others. I think there has been talk of building a high speed rail line between SF and LA for at least 20 years.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225528)

...which creates an even more ample and cheaper supply of oil for others. I think there has been talk of building a high speed rail line between SF and LA for at least 20 years.

...assuming OPEC doesn't decide outright to produce less, and there aren't any other countries that want to take up that supply (I'm looking at you, China).

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (4, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225546)

And it's probably still going to be talk 20 years from now.

A couple of years ago, voters passed a $10 billion bond measure to get it started. What many of them missed was that this was the first $10 billion of a $40 billion total cost, much of which is expected to be federally-funded even though nobody bothered to ask the federal government for the money. If the state has to cover the entire amount, it will cost $80 billion once the bonds are paid off.

Sure, it's planned to go from San Diego to San Francisco, but it's running into enormous political problems. City after city in Orange County alone are saying that they don't want it running through their land because of the financial and political costs that go with it. That means a longer run through Riverside County -- if cities in that county let it happen -- making it more expensive. San Francisco goes back and forth on whether they'll let it actually end in the city, or force it over to Oakland.

Then there's the time it's expected to take to get from San Diego to San Francisco, a trip of about 500 miles. The low end times are quoted at about four hours, which might be acceptable, but that's for an express train, which are rare to non-existent in most plans that have been made public. Every plan I've seen has the train making numerous stops along the way -- as many as a dozen along the 45 mile-path through Orange County, let alone San Diego and Los Angeles Counties and the Bay Area -- and some reports have suggested that it would take eight to ten hours for the train to make the trip, with it spending as much time accelerating and decelerating as it does in a cruise speed -- which wouldn't be that high in the urban areas to begin with.

It's also not expected to be up and running until 2030 at the earliest. Most of the realistic estimates put it at 2040. It's a total fiasco. We can't even get a simple light rail project that runs 30 miles in place in part because the costs ballooned to more than $1 billion despite plans to run most of the line running down the center medians of the streets (hence its name, CenterLine).

Absent a minor revolution, California will never be governable enough to get something like a high-speed-rail line in place.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (2, Insightful)

guacamole (24270) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225456)

Or, even better, just don't use cars at all. Rail, after all, works splendidly with electricity.

This would work only for people who confine themselves to staying forever in cities and suburbs, but it certainly won't work for me. Train will not take me from Bat Area to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Central Coast, Redwood Forest, Point Reyes, Monterey, Death Valley, Mojave Desert, Grand Canyon (both rims), Mount Shasta, and tons of other places in California and Oregon I enjoy going to on weekends the day and time I like. Neither could train bring bags full of groceries to my doorstep. Let's get real. Cars have their uses. What we need to get rid of is the lifestyles and city designs that induce long daily car commutes, build better public transport systems, and build high speed rail where it does make sense.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (2, Informative)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225806)

Or, even better, just don't use cars at all. Rail, after all, works splendidly with electricity.

Actually, rail does not. Rail uses electricity when the driver wants it to. That often means peak times of electricity use. An electric car can get charged basically at any time - at night (or mid day in the case of solar) - whenever there is excess electricity in the grid. Rail also uses just as much electricity as an electric car. There's a slight difference but the time of use control makes up this difference. Public transport exposed [templetons.com] (article is a graph with nice numbers from a bureau of transportation statistics report - numbers spot checked by me). If the electricity was cheap enough, you could use it to capture CO2, make hydrogen, and heat the mixture to produce gasoline and diesel. However, most renewable electricity is too expensive for this purpose.

Ok, so quitting the car habit is a hard task in the sprawltastic U.S., but much of Europe is quite suited to better transportation mechanisms.

Public transport is not any better than the automobile (see above). Let people choose between the automobile and public transport. Finally, the idea that public transport is big in Europe is a myth. The same article links to an Australian study (which is dead) that suggests that Europe uses 0.75 times as much energy per mile on average in transport. While %1 of trips in the US are based on public transport, less than 10-19 percent are public transport based in Europe. Even they have the automobile as the main mode of transportation. Japan is quite different, but even there the electric public transport is not much more efficient than electric cars.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (3, Informative)

grahamwest (30174) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225120)

The article says Portugal is going to roll out a national network of electric vehicle charging stations in 2011. They needed the power infrastructure first.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (2, Informative)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225140)

Actually most of the public transportation in the big urban areas (mind you big urban areas in here is about 5 only) run exclusively in natural gas or, in some few cases hydrogen.

One of the most important facts for that was actually not energetic consumption, but air pollution. We have many old monuments, and it's not nice to be burning oil around them.

elecric cars (4, Informative)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225222)

Portugal has been working on this for some years now. They will be getting some of the first shipments of the Nissan/Renault electric Leafs I presume.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL0934720820080709 [reuters.com]

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (1, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225234)

Clean energy is about harvesting it directly from the sun, instead of using one of the many intermediaries - gas, coal, oil - and further polluting the planet with the harmful byproducts involved. The vast majority of energy usage worldwide is from these three sources. In Europe as a whole, transportation only takes about a third of their energy usage as of 2009. Much of that is electric since they have a lot of rail, but I couldn't find any better breakdowns.

The point is, there's no use in putting off transitioning to direct sun energy consumption. All known quantities of fossil fuels and U-235 will be exhausted by 2150 at current rates and predicted growth patterns. We might need it for something else we can't foresee, so the smart move would be to conserve every bit of easy to use energy, and use the resources we have now to make progress in sustainable technologies.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (1)

The Hatchet (1766306) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225782)

Switch to transporting freight on high speed electric rail. It would take cars off the road, get things where they are going faster, and use a lot less oil. Otherwise, very true. I might note that I would very much prefer to take a train to get me across the country than drive or fly, if only it weren't so slow or expensive. Cut the price of tickets from my current town to my home town down from 180 to 50-60 bucks, and make it take 6-12 hours instead of 18-24 hours, and it would be a viable alternative to driving on many long distance flights. Cars are still necessary for getting groceries and certain other things.

Re:Wow let me run out and buy some solar panels (1)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225070)

Sure.

till you a) run out of coal, or b) kill too many people with the output of the reaction that there's nobody left to continue the supply of new coal into the reaction.

Debt (1, Insightful)

dutchdabomb (248104) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225028)

TFA says the system cost 16.3 billion euros. Maybe that's part of why Portugal is the P in PIGS [wikipedia.org] with a public debt of over 80% of GDP [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Debt (2, Insightful)

tqk (413719) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225082)

TFA says the system cost 16.3 billion euros. Maybe that's part of why Portugal is the P in PIGS with a public debt of over 80% of GDP.

The summary says they're now an energy exporter. So, their long-term investment is paying off. What's the gripe?

Whether it'll pay itself off in time for the actuaries to be happy with the deal's another thing.

Re:Debt (2, Insightful)

Abtin (969262) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225100)

Paying off for who? According TFA, the Portuguese government sold off the rights to the electricitiy to private companies. The government is also paying a massive subsidy to the private companies for 15 years. So the people of Portugal get to pay higher (15%) electric costs while the companies get to export energy to other nations. I'm sure you're right that there is nothing to gripe about.

Re:Debt (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225248)

Paying off for who? According TFA, the Portuguese government sold off the rights to the electricitiy to private companies. The government is also paying a massive subsidy to the private companies for 15 years.

Ah. Business as usual. No matter where you go, there you are. Regulatory capture, cronyism, nepotism, corporatism, back-room dealing, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions", & etc.

Re:Debt (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225154)

Or will it pay for itself by the time it all has to be replaced? PV cells don't last for ever. Windmill Generators can essentially, with enough upkeep. Will it pay for the army of maintainers to be paid, cover workmans comp, cover their retirement plans?

I'd like to hope so....I just doubt it will be an actual "investment" in the fiduciary sense. Energy independence is a laudable goal, but not always a good financial investment.

Re:Debt (1)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225204)

Maybe maybe not - there are a great deal of conclusions being drawn from a VERY small part of the whole picture.

What is their consumption per capita? If it was low because of the cost of creating energy was so high (and theirs was high, I do not know their consumption though but price/consumption have a fairly large correlative - and IMO - causative link) once they adjust to this level of available energy it may become a real money sink. Their long term investment is paying off in the short term but it's not unusual for that to happen and a venture still die off. It takes time for adjustments to be made.

What are the environmental impacts going to be too - we know they have a reduced carbon footprint but contrary to what is popular in the media today carbon isn't the only pollutant and not even the worse of the bunch (heck it isn't even the worse greenhouse gas let alone pollutant). These technologies still are only a small part of our energy production and a number of them didn't scale too well (see tidal generators effect on long shore currents when implemented past an experimental level or large windmill farms effects on avians).

Assuming that they have growth how will this scale? Yes, they have excess now but in another 10 years will they be able to use this for their population? If you are at 90% of your capacity today chances are you are going to be screwed in a decade or more down the line. I do not know what their capacity is either, but it is a question that wasn't addressed in the press release.

The answer may very well be really really good to all those - I simply do not know and it isn't something easy to find (and may not even be done). One can find articles such as this, but I'll believe that as much as I do that BP cares about the environmental impact of the Gulf Oil leak. Well, not exactly true - I believe a negative with respect to BP's caring (that is they do not at all and it is a lie) and I'm simply neutral on those questions above - no reason why they can't come out quite positive (that is they have great justification but it wasn't in the scope of the article or other publications).

My main point is don't count your chickens before the eggs hatch. For a great deal of these things someone somewhere has to give it a go and see what happens. It is usually the medium sized countries with a severe lack of some resource that are a great large scale test and they are certainly doing that. Just, again, it is a bit premature to declare success and make fun of people who haven't gone to it.

In the long run that has been a good deal of what has killed many so called "special interest" groups that could have gotten a good 80% of what they wanted. They want it all, they want it now, and nothing less will suffice - turns out when you want "all or nothing" you are more likely to get "nothing". I think we could have had 70-80% of these "green" (I use quotes because more often than not all I see is how they reduce carbon emissions - while important so what if it raises sulfur emissions or sends 10 species of birds to extinction?) technologies if they were not tied to extremists that say things that anyone other than a True Believer can poke holes in, let alone someone that takes a bit of thought at it. It makes it easy to totally dismiss (another is we have to act now as it has to be better - tell that to people in the south about erosion and introducing kudzu to stop it).

Re:Debt (5, Insightful)

sgraar (958944) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225096)

Your link also indicates that Portugal's public debt is 75.2% of the GDP (getting this number from the CIA fact book and the other one from The Economist).

The United States' public debt is 88% of the GDP without the huge investment in renewable sources of energy. What's their excuse?

I'm not saying Portugal's economy is better than that of the United States — it isn't. I'm just pointing out that public debt as a percentage of the GDP is not the best way to assess the health of an economy or if an investment in cleaner energy is a good idea.

Re:Debt (2, Informative)

aliquis (678370) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225480)

I checked both from CIA world fact book earlier but those wasn't the numbers they had:

Portugal:
76.9% of GDP (2009 est.)
66.3% of GDP (2008 est.)

USA:
52.9% of GDP (2009 est.)
39.7% of GDP (2008 est.)

Though:
"note: data cover only what the United States Treasury denotes as "Debt Held by the Public," which includes all debt instruments issued by the Treasury that are owned by non-US Government entities. The data include Treasury debt held by foreign entities. The data exclude debt issued by individual US states, as well as intra-governmental debt. Intra-governmental debt consists of Treasury borrowings from surpluses in the trusts for Federal Social Security, Federal Employees, Hospital Insurance (Medicare and Medicaid), Disability and Unemployment, and several other smaller trusts. If data for Intra-government debt were added, "Gross Debt" would increase by about 30% of GDP."

So maybe for comparisons your 88% is more correct anyway. What do I know. IANAE.

Re:Debt (5, Informative)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225158)

Well, USA has a public debt of 93% and an electric grid quite archaic compared to Portugal.

And did I mention that Portugal has one of the most state of the art internet broadband internet coverage (with optical fibre connecting the house in major cities) and 3.5G across most of the country in the all world. Being Portugal only rival as far as I know, Estonia?

Yeah, the public accounts might be bad ... but we are investing in the future.

Re:Debt (3, Informative)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225192)

Portugal is also, by some margin, the poorest country of the Western Europe and by per capita GDP it's been overtaken by Eastern and Central European countries (Portugal: $21K, Czech Republic: $24K, Slovenia $28K). Btw, since you are comparing it with the USA: $46K. I don't know much about Portugal, but perhaps one of the reasons is that it tends to embark on projects like you mentioned that sound good but don't make economic sense?

Re:Debt (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225208)

Yes, it is. I completely agree. But what I was trying to say is that, not all is bad. It would be worst to be like Greece, with public accounts worst than Portugal and lagging back in everything.

You can be sure I'm not defending our government. Just that there is also a positive point to the picture.

Re:Debt (3, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225366)

But my point is to question if this is a positive or a negative point. Sure it's nice to have clean energy, but there are downsides too. It involved investing billions that could have been used for other purposes, not least tax breaks for individuals and businesses.

Just look at Ireland (well it's in crisis too but there is no question that lowering taxes was a huge factor in the unprecedented economic boom there). What if they decided that instead of bringing in hundreds of high tech companies by very low business taxes they decided to invest that money in windmills, solar plants and the best broadband in the world? Maybe they would be in Portugal's place today (btw Ireland GDP per capita today: $39K, Portugal: $21K - 20 years ago they were about the same).

Another problem is higher electricity prices. There is no surer way to reduce jobs, increase prices and generally harm the economy than by increasing energy cost.

Disclaimer: I don't know if what I said above has anything to do with reality in Portugal, I am just pointing out that there are two sides to clean energy equation

Re:Debt (4, Interesting)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225432)

Well, no, this is not the problem. The public spending in these projects, even when it fails is not the problem here.

Portugal's problem, and you can check in the wikipedia by seeing our awful gini index (the worst of all European union), is the very bad distribution of wealth. Most company owners see people as a source of cheap labour ... so of course, if people doesn't earn enough, they also tend not to work very hard. And mind you, the bosses don't pay low wages because they don't have money (like I said they have a LOT OF MONEY), they pay low wages because, well, they all do, and unless you have a very specialized job, if you don't want to do it for what they pay, they find another one to do it.

Another problem, is that, there is a very big tax fraud in here. The proletariat pays taxes because they have a steady income ... the rich don't because the system is made so that it's very difficult to control what they really earn. Portugal it's a great country in some aspects ... but a very shitty one in some others :S

Re:Debt (2, Insightful)

aliquis (678370) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225516)

I don't know much about Portugal, but perhaps one of the reasons is that it tends to embark on projects like you mentioned that sound good but don't make economic sense?

Doubt it. This is an issue you can see in general comparing north vs south Europe. I don't remember the word for it but the southern countries is more about living / spending your time outside of work whereas for many in the north your life is about working. I assume the weather conditions, need to take siestas in the middle of the day because it's too warm to do anything useful anyway and so on may be some reasons for it.

I think one reason economic is better up north is because people simply work harder.

May be wrong though. Also tourism is a bigger industry in those southern countries.

Re:Debt (0, Troll)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225206)

Funny, our debt ratio was quite a bit lower in 2008, but it's been rocketing higher and higher rapidly since. I wonder why that is... It's sad when Dubya, the profligate spender, is a fond memory in terms of fiscal discipline.

Re:Debt (1, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225336)

Sadly, only a certain segment of the population believes you can cut taxes and start two wars without harming the economy.

I'll be glad to respond to any shucking and jiving with salient quotes from some of your friends about inheriting the Clinton Recession in 2002. The most unfortunate thing that did happen under Clinton's watch, as far as the economy goes, is allowing Glass Steagall to be dismantled.

Re:Debt (2, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225442)

Sadly, only a certain segment of the population believes you can cut taxes and start two wars without harming the economy.

First of all, cutting taxes is generally understood to be good for the economy. Fighting wars generally isn't, so I don't know why you are bundling those two together. Secondly, the two wars were generally supported by both parties (though in case of Iraq there were more opponents among Democrats but that was mostly posturing for political reasons). I don't think it's clear at all that the US foreign policy would have been any different under Clinton or, god forbid, Gore especially after 9/11.

I don't think the recession was caused by Obama nor inherited from Bush. It's simplistic to the point of ridiculous to view something as complex as the economic cycle as determined by which president is in office even though their decisions of course have some impact.

Re:Debt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225624)

"First of all, cutting taxes is generally understood to be good for the economy."

No, see that's why the US is in massive decline. Cutting taxes is good for rich people, and rich people only.

Re:Debt (5, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225816)

First of all, cutting taxes is generally understood to be good for the economy.

Citation needed.

Fighting wars generally isn't, so I don't know why you are bundling those two together.

If you had a drug addiction, and you were always broke, there's a very good reason to think that ending the drug addiction would solve the second problem.

Secondly, the two wars were generally supported by both parties (though in case of Iraq there were more opponents among Democrats but that was mostly posturing for political reasons). I don't think it's clear at all that the US foreign policy would have been any different under Clinton or, god forbid, Gore especially after 9/11.

Let's see: we've spent a few trillion dollars, increased recruitment to Al Qaeda, funneled money to the Taliban through the ISI, lost thousands of soldier's lives, maimed thousands more, killed a few hundred thousand muslims, displaced a few million more, given up habeas corpus, built secret prisons around the world for the purposes of rendition and torture, and we've handed the war in Afghanistan - the "good" one - over to the CIA and Task Force 373 that's busy extrajudicially executing terrorism suspects.

What could Gore, or anyone, have possibly fucked up more than that?

I don't think the recession was caused by Obama nor inherited from Bush. It's simplistic to the point of ridiculous to view something as complex as the economic cycle as determined by which president is in office even though their decisions of course have some impact.

Generally speaking, Democratic administrations have reduced military spending and increased taxes. Have a look at the results for yourself: http://zfacts.com/p/318.html [zfacts.com]

Democrats aren't inherently better or anything, but at least they have demonstrated that cutting military spending and progressive taxes reduce the national debt. If people making more than 160,000 a year are really going to quit working over a 4% increase in Federal tax income, I say good riddance. There are plenty of people who will step up to take their place. They deserve to lose money for being fair weather patriots, who apparently only care about this country when it's dumping cash into their pockets.

Re:Debt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225360)

Haha. The left wing douchebag Obama supporters are out modding in force! I can just feel the smug douchiness!

Re:Debt (1, Funny)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225228)

Let me get this straight...

Portugal is investing in the future. They are doing so by building out infrastructure that will supply green energy while simultaneously building out infrastructure that will increase the energy use of the population. Averting Global Warming so that you can download movies faster?

This is weird.

Re:Debt (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225254)

You are either trolling or joking. So I will let Slashdot points system straight that out.

Re:Debt (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225282)

If you really think so.

Imagine a nice quiet town in the mountains with a standard two-lane highway as the only transportation in and out. This little town is adorable and attracts tourists for all over who come and spend their money as well as deteriorate the very environment they find dear.

The town sees this problem because lately there have been complaints that traffic is getting very bad on the weekends during peak travel times. The town decides the best course of action is to expand the road so that it can handle 300% of the current traffic resulting in fewer complaints by visitors.

However, the problem is now that with increased road capacity, they are seeing even more people show up to walk around and look at crafts. The problem hasn't been solved, simply postponed and arguably exacerbated.

If Portugal wants to increase power capacity while at the same time increase power consumption, something isn't going to end as anticipated. Of course I agree that developing clean energy is a noble goal. But it seems a bit hypocritical to say you're doing so while on the other hand doing exactly the opposite.

Re:Debt (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225314)

Are you crazy or something? You are actually trying to say that providing broadband access across all the country AND IN OPTICAL FIBRE, it's not even coper, and putting up 3.5G internet instead of GPRS, is actually making any appreciable difference to our energy consumption?

Re:Debt (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225356)

You are actually trying to say that providing broadband access across all the country AND IN OPTICAL FIBRE, it's not even coper, and putting up 3.5G internet instead of GPRS, is actually making any appreciable difference to our energy consumption?

You do realize that computers use electricity, right? Did I miss a /. story somewhere? Is everyone using hand cranks and hamsters?

A chart [google.com]

Re:Debt (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225396)

You do realize the computers exist witouth being connected to the internet, right? In fact, you do realize that the computers that are connected to broadband internet are normally much more recent and much more energy efficient than the one your grandmother uses to store cooking recipes, without internet connection, right?

Re:Debt (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225436)

Ok, listen, I know your intentions are good and all, but you have to understand something. If you roll out broadband across an entire country (though small) there will be a lot of people acquiring fast internet that they did not have previously.

Doesn't it make sense that they will be using their computers more often? Do you think that somehow the electricity the Internet uses is static? More computers, more switches, more routers, more repeaters, all amount to higher electricity use.

Do you think that gasoline consumption doesn't change if more people have cars? Or better roads?

Re:Debt (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225484)

Do you think that gasoline consumption doesn't change if more people have cars? Or better roads?

It changes for more if you have more cars ... but changes for less if you have better roads. Improving our internet connection is the equivalent of better roads ... not more cars.

Re:Debt (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225512)

Better roads just means that more people will elect to drive.

Doesn't anyone remember Ray Kinsella [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Debt (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225422)

You do realize that computers use electricity, right? Did I miss a /. story somewhere? Is everyone using hand cranks and hamsters?

Yes, they do..use energy that is, not hamsters. ;-) However, when there's no computer or reliable broadband available, you need to move your physical body from location A to B to get any work done, which uses a heck of a lot more energy than logging in to the company's network from the comfort of home.

Re:Debt (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225496)

Oh, now this argument. You are partly comparing apples to nail clippers. Fuel use and electricity use are not the same thing.

If people are home more often, okay, sure, you have less fuel being used to drive around conducting your normal life. But what about all the things people do on the internet that have real-world counterparts that use very little power? Internet gaming uses a lot more electricity than kids meeting up in the park to play a game.

Also, consider that in many cases a work environment consolidates the energy use to one location. I don't know any hard numbers, but if a business employs 100 people that all work in an office, the power used to heat/cool the building seems to me like it would be quite a bit less than the power used to heat/cool 100 homes. Though, I'm sure this depends greatly on how you heal/cool your business/home.

Would I say that I use more electricity today than I did back in 1995 dicking around on CompuServe? Of course I do.

this FP for GNAoA! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225044)

people's faces is [mit.edu] found as liitle overhead obligated to care Been siiting here This post brought

Summary (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225046)

"This article talks about the small country of Portugal on the West Coast of Europe" (As opposed to the other Portugal)

Re:Summary (4, Funny)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225562)

/.'s target audience is American. You know, the ones who are great at geography.

Ahh, the NYT (5, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225050)

You can always find the truth buried near the end of the article:

But a decade ago in Portugal, as in many places in the United States today, power companies owned not only power generating plants, but also transmission lines. Those companies have little incentive to welcome new sources of renewable energy, which compete with their investment in fossil fuels. So in 2000, Portugal’s first step was to separate making electricity from transporting it, through a mandatory purchase by the government of all transmission lines for electricity and gas at what were deemed fair market prices.

Fox News translation: Obama bin Laden wants steal our energy and kill your grandmother! Let freedom ring for... um... dirty coal power.

Re:Ahh, the NYT (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225190)

Stink, if nobody was able to get wealthier by condemning the world's people to live in the past, wouldn't it?

Re:Ahh, the NYT (5, Insightful)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225454)

This is going on in pretty much all of Europe. Following the spree of "privatize! privatize!" from the Reagan/Thatcher era, we've discovered the hard way that:

1. Some infrastructure is too important to subject to the ups and downs of the free market, or to allow it to fall into foreign hands(same thing really).
2. If you want to create a *true* free market for electricity, ADSL, cable, etc. you need to separate the hardware from the product. The infrastructure is public property, the product that gets sold over it is private.

Even according TFA, it doesnt add up. (0, Flamebait)

Abtin (969262) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225052)

So the government seized the private wealth of individuals to create really expensive new energy which, according to TFA, increase Portueguese energy costs by 15% on top of the exorbitant (2x the US) rate they already paid. So the Portueguese got reamed twice - once to pay for it, and again to pay to maintain it.

Also, since money is a rough proxy for emissions, and the project costs so much, its reasonable to conclude that the "clean" energy is in fact more polluting than fossil fuels which are a fraction of the price. This is particularly applicable to Europe where, according TFA, the emissions trading system builds the costs of emissions into the fuel.

Re:Even according TFA, it doesnt add up. (5, Insightful)

Bruce Dawson (1079221) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225134)

Dumping pollution into the environment is often cheaper, at least in the short term, than trying to avoid creating waste, or trying to dump the waste responsibly. Burning coal is cheaper because of this. If you factor in the costs -- acid rain, altering the chemistry of the air, acidification of the oceans -- coal is more expensive.

And, by reducing their fossil fuel imports Portugal has now insulated themselves from the vagaries of the energy market. The next time oil prices spike the US will be force to send crates of money to unfriendly regimes because the US is addicted to their oil. Portugal will thrive while the US stumbles.

Portugal is planning ahead. The US is hoping that it can continue to be profligate forever.

Money isn't necessarily a proxy for emissions. Often it is a proxy for human labor.

Re:Even according TFA, it doesnt add up. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225250)

I think most people prefer a higher energy cost if they can get rid of things like lung cancer.
I don't really mind you burning a lot of coal but if you don't spend the money to contain the output then you are causing damage to my health.

Friends do not let friends use fossil fuel.

Totally worth it. (4, Insightful)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225062)

It's hard. It's expensive. It won't please everyone. But it is totally worth it for future generations. It takes vision, vision beyond the end of our noses, to realize that.

The irony (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225242)

It's expensive. It won't please everyone. But it is totally worth it for future generations.

For the most part, the "expensive" countries all have dying cultures, since they don't reproduce enough [wikipedia.org] to survive. (Remember "replacement rate" is 2.1)

Don't worry, somebody will fill those empty countries, and the "future generations" don't look like they will be the types of high-tech folk who will keep things green, care about your culture, or be high-tech enough to get homo sapiens "off this rock".

Re:The irony (1)

astar (203020) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225426)

Pooh, not high tech enough? Last I looked, Asia was building over a hundred nukes. US is bringing up one that was mothballed decades ago. Europe, hmm, I think Italy just did a nuke deal with Russia? Otherwise, nothing. All stupid "green energy" stuff instead. Mostly, it takes more energy to make than it will produce over its lifetime. Asia is at least trying to have a future, even if Portugal is not.

Too bad the article is not about Spain. Big investments in green. Big government subsidies. Oops, no future, so no money, so no more subsidies. And look, the green energy people all go bankrupt.

Here is the trick. You do not want to be on the grid? Green stuff looks pretty good. But if you are friendly with your neighbors, so does a small nuke to share. Ah, but if you want an end to tech advancements, you are going to have to retro, so you will not have the tech to make a small nuke. That is where green stuff shines.

I figure that people that that want green energy are accepting of a 5 billion people die off, starting already. Come on, you know you are in the acute phase of a malthusian collapse. So you need to do real systematic development, starting before I was born. Hah, in the 50's the plan was that by now the US would have over a thousand nukes. So we have a 150, old ones. Are we talking a trillion watts difference? What is the quads?

Re:The irony (1)

AfroTrance (984230) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225784)

Don't worry, somebody will fill those empty countries, and the "future generations" don't look like they will be the types of high-tech folk who will keep things green, care about your culture, or be high-tech enough to get homo sapiens "off this rock".

You are saying immigrants from less developed nations are uninsightful idiots? That's just a little bit racist.

Re:Totally worth it. (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225244)

And here's why it'll never happen in the USA

So in 2000, Portugal's first step was to separate making electricity from transporting it, through a mandatory purchase by the government of all transmission lines for electricity and gas at what were deemed fair market prices.

It's utterly *mandatory, in order to create true competition within natural monopolies, but is politically impossible in the USA.

*Breaking up the vertical monopoly, not necessarly the mandatory government purchase

Less than 1/3rd the population of California (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225074)

Call me when these ideas scale. Until then, your irrational hatred of the weak nuclear force makes you myopic and a slave to the middle east.

Re:Less than 1/3rd the population of California (1)

IorDMUX (870522) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225110)

Call me when these ideas scale. Until then, your irrational hatred of the weak nuclear force makes you myopic and a slave to the middle east.

Okay, I get the overall picture, but could someone explain what particle physics has to do with the situation?

Re:Less than 1/3rd the population of California (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225142)

The potential energy of the weak nuclear force is what is exploited in nuclear fission. It was just an odd way of saying that us 'mericans are scared of teh nucular bogey mon.

Re:Less than 1/3rd the population of California (1)

TheDugong (701481) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225328)

Does Portugal have any uranium (or other radioactive stuff that can be used to create nuclear power stations)?

Re:Less than 1/3rd the population of California (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225372)

Yup, a lot! Portugal has the biggest Uranium deposits of Europe !... but we don't use it. Don't use it for ourselves, or even mine it for exporting :S

Re: Uranium mining in Portugal (3, Informative)

jbatista (1205630) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225476)

Portugal exported some uranium ore to Iran during the early 1980s, ammounting to close to 300 tons. However, its mines have been abandoned since late 1980s to early 1990s. From http://www.iraqwatch.org/un/IAEA/s-1997-779-att-1.htm [iraqwatch.org] :

Iraq procures "yellowcake" uranium from Portugal, Niger, and Brazil.

However, its mine have been abandoned since late 1980s to early 1990s, mainly because of economic viability and not as much as from puny environmentalist concerns as claimed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining#Portugal [wikipedia.org]

Hydro FTW (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225148)

Sun and wind?
Don't make me laugh. Hardly a blip compared to how much renewable power is generated by good ol' hydroelectric in Portugal.
Just out of fashion technology so not worth mentioning much in press.

Or maybe it's because Portugal is trying realllyyyyyy hard to export their wind tech to the USA?

Re:Hydro FTW (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225178)

Well, the hydros in the new energetic plan were made and are being made to store the solar and wind energy by pumping the water. Because during the night you cannot use solar power and the wind power reduces a lot.

The hydros are not being made to produce energy by themselves.

Mind you, I'm against hydros, but unless we embrace nuclear or someone comes up with huge and efficient energy storing methods, hydros are unavoidable in this scenario.

Re:Hydro FTW (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225470)

It's something to think about though, small-scale hydro plants that pump water between a huge tank sunk into a hill, and a large water body.

Re:Hydro FTW (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225504)

Well, in Netherlands (I think, but it can also be in some other Northern European country), they had some project to store energy by heating a mass of water deep below the soil (so that the energy losses by irradiation where very low). That seemed more energy efficient and much less pervasive of nature. I don't know what's the present status of the project tough.

Hydro FTW (2, Interesting)

gabriel (2115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225162)

Sun and wind?
Don't make me laugh. Those are hardly a blip compared to good ol' Hydroelectric production in Portugal.
But as an out of fashion techology (no one likes big dams anyway) I guess it's not worh mentioning.

or maybe this is all related to the fact Portugal is pushing really hard to export their wind tech to the US..

Re:Hydro FTW (3, Interesting)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225196)

Well, the hydros in the new energetic plan were made and are being made to store the solar and wind energy by pumping the water. Because during the night you cannot use solar power and the wind power reduces a lot.

The hydros are not being made to produce energy by themselves.

Mind you, I'm against hydros, but unless we embrace nuclear or someone comes up with huge and efficient energy storing methods, hydros are unavoidable in this scenario. And between burning oil and hydros ... we choose the less of the 2 evils.

Idiocy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225338)

FTA: "The country’s electricity production costs and consumer electricity rates — including the premium prices paid for power from renewable sources — are about average for Europe, but still higher than those in China or the United States, countries that rely on cheap coal."

Portugal paid a ridiculous amount of money to put in place a new system that has not and will not save them any money. The costs of renewable energy sources may decrease over time, but only for NEW installations. Existing installations, including the ones in Portugal, will continue to cost exactly the same as they did when they were installed. Far from a success, this is in fact a giant failure for Portugal.

Re:Idiocy (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225468)

Err. I don't know if you live here (in Portugal), but if you do you are seeing too much Jornal da TVI (our equivalent to FOx News). You do know that these renewable energy start-ups are all private right? And that the money to pay extra for this renewable energy comes from the companies (or company, EDP) that still produces a lot from carbon fuel sources (also, of course, it's the one the produces the most energy in total), since the law is that they have to preferentially buy energy produced from renewable means ... and for a slightly higher price.

Explain This To Me (1)

Auto_Lykos (1620681) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225398)

Why do articles (the summary included) talking about power-generation always mention oil and it's coming scarcity or price.?

Practically, no one uses oil for power and if they do it's almost rarely more than a sliver of the pie. In the United States it's about 3.25% and in most countries it's far lower.

Sure if you're talking about energy usage in general it makes a lot of sense to mention oil, but for power-generation, not really.

Re:Explain This To Me (4, Insightful)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225462)

Pumping out enough renewable energy over a state of the art grid means being able to fuel electric cars en masse.

More electric cars -> less oil.

Besides, there is a direct correlation between the current price for oil(which is based off of demand) and the price of other energy resources.

Re:Explain This To Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33225656)

On a free market the price of electrical power is determined not by the average cost of the power generation methods currently in operation, but by the most expensive one. When prices rise, more and more power plants will be started. Eventually you reach a point where the price for electricity is sufficient to pay for the most expensive way of generating electricity known to man: burning oil. By then all electrical power costs that much, even if only 1% of it was generated from oil. In this context, the point of adding more power sources is to eliminate the need for oil-fired power plants, or to reduce that need to just a few days each year.

Not just poor countries leading (5, Informative)

geomark (932537) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225532)

Developing countries also leading the way. Thailand broke ground this month on two large solar PV installations, a 38 MW plant and a 73 MW plant, the latter will be the world's largest when it goes into operation November 2011. Thailand is not poor but it isn't rich either, yet it can figure out how to finance and build renewable energy systems on a large scale. More on the solar race in Thailand http://geomark.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/solar-race-is-on-in-thailand/ [wordpress.com]

atishnis (0, Offtopic)

atishnis (1863638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225630)

Mobile in india, as the name itself tells, explain/educates/gives every useful and important information about mobile. All models of all companies are explained with their pro & cons, you name it and you have it on http://mobileinindia.in/ [mobileinindia.in] Simple and elobrative language explain every mobile in short

Where did they put them? National parks? Beaches? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 4 years ago | (#33225696)

I'm all for renewable energy, but building energy plants for the purposes of exporting rather than importing power is not a good global solution for everyone. So my question is where did they build them?

In my last travels around Europe I could not help but notice wind turbines dotted all over the beautiful Austrian country side. I noticed wind turbines in the mountains in the south part of France. I went skiing on the edge of the Swiss alps and there were wind turbines on the fucking mountain tops. I mean really, these are not unpopulated places, they are destinations known for their beautiful scenery.

Mean while here in Australia we have hundreds of thousands of sqkm of arid and unpopulated wasteland rife with wind and sun. Yet we build nothing but coal fired powerplants. (not to mention we have a metric buttload of uranium).

Portugal if I visit you next year and your wonderful country is dotted with wind turbines in all the most scenic places I will be sorely disappointed.
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