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Portugal has brought forward a deadline for closing its last coal plants to 2023

The government of Portugal led by Antonio Costa has set a date for the official shutdown of the country’s two largest coal power plants: Pego, operated by Endesa, in 2021 and Sines, which belongs to EDP, in September 2030.

Portugal is following Spain’s lead with plans to bring forward the date of the coal phase-out, thus contributing to reduce polluting emissions that are the main reason behind climate change.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa revealed on Monday that these two coal power stations have maintained the country’s electricity system for years. However, it has alternatives to meeting this energy demand and move forward with the shutdown without incident; mainly the hydropower projects awarded to Iberdrola and currently under construction in the country’s northern region. The Alto Támega dams are set to be operational before 2023. Additionally, the Portuguese government will have a new high voltage power line in the Algarve area.

A scheduled advance in the agenda to substitute coal

The Minister of the Environment had previously, in detail back in May, assured the media that the 626 MW Pego power station would be decommissioned by 2022. However, the date was brought forward and it will not be closed in 2021, after reaching the end of its service life.

In the case of Sines, the largest coal-fired power plant in the country with a capacity to generate 1,256 MW, it was scheduled to be decommissioned by 2030 or 2025 in the best-case scenario. Now minister Costa says the date was changed to 2023.

Portugal is enhancing its efforts to install and operate renewable power plants, including completing a successful renewable tender that hit a world record for solar PV prices and new infrastructures like the Alto Támega. With these actions, the Iberian nation plans to undertake the coal phase-out ahead of schedule. Nonetheless, it will continue using natural gas combined cycles to support renewables.

Biomass to replace coal

Other reports reveal that the country is also assessing the possibility to replace coal with forest biomass. This, however, will depend on the conditions granted for this by the government.

The plant’s directors consider the logistics related to biomass supplies should be resolved since the Pego coal-fired power station could absorb about a third of the biomass available for this type of plant.

Portugal has surplus production capacity, but since it plans to close its coal power stations over the next five years it must now increase its renewable capacity, which will entail an investment of nearly €7 million in renewable sources like biomass or solar. The government hopes that by 2030 renewables account for 47% of Portugal’s energy demand.


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