70% renewables? Portugal did it for three months

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Quick Take: Just a few weeks ago I was making fun of the Stanford study that claimed New York could run on 100% renewables by 2030. Now we have a story from Portugal that claims a 70% rate for a full three months. But look more closely, and you'll find that nearly 40% was from hydropower. Although hydro is a renewable resource, it doesn't suffer from the same extreme variability as wind and solar. Hydroelectric dams can be used as giant batteries – storing more water when demand is low, then sending more water through the turbines when demand is high. New York does not have quite the same advantage. According to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, hydro plants typically meet at least 17% of New York's total electricity demand. – Jesse Berst

Energias de Portugal (EDP) has announced that renewable energy supplied 70% of total consumption in Q1 2013.

To be sure, the surprisingly high figure was due largely to exceptionally favorable weather combined with unexpectedly low demand. Even so, it represents quite a benchmark. Here are some of the highlights, as reported by Climate Progress:

 

  • Hydropower supplied 37%
  • Wind supplied 27%, 60% higher than last year, 30% above average, and the highest amount ever achieved in Portugal for a sustained period
  • Solar supplied only 0.7%
  • Demand fell by 2.3% (Portugal remains mired in a deep economic crisis)
     

The achievement was made possible, in large part, by Portugal's move to a smart grid capable of handling intermittent renewables.

 

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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.

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