My word, this is an achievement!

The 130 giant wind turbines that sprout from the peaks, slicing the air with a rhythmic sigh, have helped Portugal to a remarkable achievement. For four and a half days in May the country ran entirely on electricity from renewable sources: wind, hydro and solar power.

Despite fears of a blackout, the lights stayed on for a record 107 hours between 6.45am on Saturday 7 May and 5.45pm the following Wednesday.

What excellent news, isn’t it?

Sá da Costa traces Portugal’s interest in renewable energy back to 1970, when almost all the electricity consumed in the country was from renewable hydropower plants.


And, as someone who lives here, there’re a hell of a lot of them around. Everything above a stream that can be dammed is.

And will Greenpeace and FoE allow us to do the same to Britain?

16 thoughts on “My word, this is an achievement!”

  1. Hydro power is good for significantly mountainous and lightly populated areas. For SE England, not so much.

    Dams aren’t particularly ‘green’ – they use a lot of energy intensive cement and drowned valleys emit a lot of methane.

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    Another way of putting this is that Portugal has installed enough renewable capacity to power the entire nation, but that it failed to do so for three hundred and sixty one days and twelve hours.

  3. I’m prejudiced – but I’d say that in the UK The Environment Agency have not exactly made a decent job of cultivating the re-use of existing hydro power infrastructure – without any “help”.

    Due to their own ineptness and worse … they’ve driven up the cost of an application 10 fold in five years.

    I’d say that the prospect of dealing with the gits (I said I was prejudiced) seems to have dissuaded many from pursuing an application – it’s certainly driven competent project managers off to Europe….

    In the meantime the river and stream infrastructure is treated to an array of ever battier eco-solutions.

    They’ve blown £2 million ++ resisting our applications and committing fraud in the process.

  4. Chris Miller

    1) power plants don’t have to be next door. There is something called a grid and there is lots of unused hilly terrain in the UK

    2) so hydro dams are not necessarily green to construct? This differs from windmills how?

  5. At first glance it’s a good achievement. Here’s Wikipedia on Portugal in 2014:

    In 2014 electricity was generated by 30% hydroelectricity, 27% natural gas, 22% wind, 20% coal and 1% solar.

    Wind isn’t far behind hydro, and presumably has more scope for expansion, since all the best hydro sites will already be in use.

    But at what cost? How much is the subsidy per turbine? How much indirect subsidy is there in connecting remote turbines to the national grid? Until we know those figures, we can’t judge the success of the scheme.

  6. in the UK The Environment Agency have not exactly made a decent job of cultivating the re-use of existing hydro power infrastructure

    That would be the same Environment Agency that caused (or at best exacerbated) the Somerset floods a couple of years back because they couldn’t be arsed to maintain the centuries-old network of rhynes then.

  7. Reluctant commentator


    The problem is that the reservoirs are all needed for water supply. Also, on a world scale, even Scotland is hilly rather than mountainous – only the tips of the Munros are above the world average height of land above sea level. Therefore the hydraulic head is pitiful.

    Not only that, but hyroelectric reservoirs are fantastically dangerous, responsible for mass fatalities when inevitably some fail – and there is nothing ever made that cannot fail. For instance, one failure in Italy in 1966 caused a death toll some 40 times the entire death toll from nuclear over a half century.

  8. Having taking up kayaking recently I’ve been exposed to some propaganda on this recently. There are some seriously whacky hydro schemes out there which will wipe out entire ecu systems, for the sake of powering say 500 houses. If it wasn’t for the climate cobblers none of this would be considered. As an earlier poster said just centralise the generation, like we used to, before the insanity set in. These arrogant bastards who pose as environmentalists are actually destructive nuts. As for the people who want to destroy the Severn estuary, there are no words.

  9. BiW

    the very same ….

    The whistleblower blog has had a Lazarus moment – shame that the content from its original manifestation hasn’t been brought over to the new site

    An object lesson in what happens to an unregulated , out of control bureaucracy. Exasperatingly – just one of our platinum plated UK fleet of such organisations

  10. ‘Despite fears of a blackout, the lights stayed on for a record 107 hours between 6.45am on Saturday 7 May and 5.45pm the following Wednesday.’

    I assumed this was written by someone speaking English as a second language. Byline is ‘Sam Jones,’ who presumably grew up in an English speaking household.

    Why were there fears of a blackout?

    ‘the lights stayed on for a record 107 hours’ And then they went out? They’ve never had the lights on for four days before? And then they tell us the conditions were just right.

    ‘We did it’: the week Portugal ran on renewables’

    Four day weeks in Portugal?

    ‘Now no one can come along and say in good conscience that this is impossible. No. This is possible. Because we did it.’

    This is juvenile. They did nothing but convince themselves that they are on the right path.

  11. @Emil

    The only really ‘green’ hydro power source is taking a mountain steam down a pipe to a turbine. To provide continuous power, the stream needs to be glacier-fed, which excludes any in the UK. Windmills are equally useless, of course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *