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Portugal shut its last coal plant, way ahead of schedule

Portugal shut its last coal plant, way ahead of schedule

This makes it the fourth EU country to wean itself off the polluting energy source

Portugal had 2030 as the planned target year when coal should stop being used as a fuel for electricity production. It decided that was too far off of a deadline, and just this past weekend the last coal plant in the country shut down.

Environmental group Zero said in a statement that the Pego plant in central Portugal, 150 kilometres northeast from Lisbon, had been the country's second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, adding that "freeing ourselves from the biggest source of greenhouse gases was a momentous day for Portugal".

What comes next though?

The good news is that this makes the Iberian country, the fourth in the EU to stop using coal for power generation – the other three being Belgium, Sweden and Austria. 60%-70% of the national electricity is produced through renewable sources already, but that also means there is still a hefty share of imported fossil fuels used for the same purpose.

Even the news of the plant’s closure was not received with applause from all sides since there is already talk that the major shareholder in the facility, Tejo Energia, might have plans to reconvert the plant to burn wood pellets instead.

Freeing ourselves from our biggest source of greenhouse gases is a momentous day for Portugal. But it is soured by the prospect of the plant being converted to burn forests,” said Francisco Ferreira, President of ZERO Portugal, in a press release. “Ditching coal only to switch to the next worst fuel is clearly not an answer. Instead, the focus should be on rapidly upscaling our renewable energy capacity in wind and solar.” 

Apparently, EU rules are still fairly ambiguous on whether wood-burning could be classified as a renewable source of energy, although these might be tightened up given vibrant activism around the issue, based on solid research.

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