Did Portugal run for four days on renewables alone?

Recently there has been much rejoicing in the green media that the entire country of Portugal succeeded in powering itself with 100% renewables for four straight days from May 7 through May 10, 2016. Here we look into the question of whether this is true (it is) and second the question of what caused it (the weather). Over the period in question Portugal was able to make maximum use of its hydro and wind capacity because of unusually heavy rains (inset) and strong winds, a combination of renewables-favorable weather conditions that has been described as “fantastic”, although the tourism industry may take a different view.

The data used in this post are from the REN Portuguese grid website.

Installed capacity in Portugal at the end of 2014 and 2014 generation by source are as shown in the Table below. Portugal’s peak demand is around 8.5GW, or about half of the country’s total installed capacity:

Because of its relatively high hydro and wind capacity Portugal generated 63% of its electricity from renewables in 2014. It’s not hard to see how a spell of unusually wet and windy weather could increase this to 100%. Calm, dry, sunny weather would of course have the opposite effect, particularly with solar contributing only 1% to Portugal’s total generation, but good weather isn’t considered in this post.

REN, the Portuguese grid provides 15 minute grid readings separately for each day. Figure 1 shows the graph for May 10, 2016, during the period of 100% renewables generation:

Figure 1: REN grid data graph, May 10, 2016

A few comments on the REN data before proceeding. First, clicking on “download” brings up a spreadsheet with all the numbers, but the decimal point is a comma rather than a period. So one has to do a little work to translate the data into usable numerical format.

Second, some translations, courtesy of Luis da Sousa:

Bombagem = pumping (pumped hydro)
Carvao = coal
Albuf (Albufeira) = conventional hydro
Fios de Agua = small hydro
PRE = “Special Regime” generation with grid priority

Third, a notable feature of Figure 1 is the large difference between generation and demand. This occurs because the graph ignores exports. Generation and demand are in close balance when exports and pumping, which is a load on the system and therefore included as demand, are allowed for.

Figure 2 shows total generation from May 1 through May 19, 2016, covering the May 7 to 10 period of 100% generation. This was clearly a period of strong winds – in fact it seems that hydro, which was already generating abundant power because of the April floods, was cut back to accommodate the extra wind:

Figure 2: Portugal generation by source, May 1 through 19, 2016.

Figure 3 compares renewables generation with demand. Renewables generation includes the following:

  • Non-PRE and PRE hydro
  • Wind
  • Solar
  • Thermal (assumed to be biomass or biofuel used in electricity generation)

Demand is estimated as demand plus pumping, which as noted above is reported as load.

Figure 3: Portugal renewables generation versus demand, May 1 through 19, 2016

The interesting thing is that not only did Portugal meet its electricity demand with 100% renewables between May 7th and 10th, it exceeded it by a substantial margin (the surplus power was exported). The May 7 to 10 time period is also conservative. According to Figure 3 demand was met or exceeded by renewables between late on May 6 and the morning of May 12. Moreover, generation and demand track each other so closely after May 12 that one gets the impression that with a little bit of extra effort Portugal could have filled 100% of demand with renewables all the way from May 7 through May 19 (renewables generation exceeded demand by 6% in the first 19 days of May). In short, the greens are understating their case, something I have never seen happen before.

But what does it all signify? These quotes from the Guardian are typical of the reaction of the green community:

Oliver Joy, a spokesman for the Wind Europe trade association said: “We are seeing trends like this spread across Europe – last year with Denmark and now in Portugal. The Iberian peninsula is a great resource for renewables and wind energy, not just for the region but for the whole of Europe.”

“An increased build-out of interconnectors, a reformed electricity market and political will are all essential,” Joy said. “But with the right policies in place, wind could meet a quarter of Europe’s power needs in the next 15 years.”

James Watson, the CEO of SolarPower Europe said: “This is a significant achievement for a European country, but what seems extraordinary today will be commonplace in Europe in just a few years. The energy transition process is gathering momentum and records such as this will continue to be set and broken across Europe.”

To draw such conclusions from a spell of unusually bad weather in Portugal is of course good publicity, but to claim that a spell of bad weather in Portugal represents an achievement for renewable energy is nonsense.

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59 Responses to Did Portugal run for four days on renewables alone?

  1. Willem Post says:


    It appears, Portugal had to export, because it likely ran out of pumping capacity and hydro plant balancing capacity. Did these exports go to France and/or Spain?

    Those exports likely took place at near-zero, or negative wholesale prices.

    What were the revenues of those exports?

    After all, generation, renewable or not, is one thing. To do it profitably is quite another.

    What were Portugal’s investments over the past few decades, and what were the electric rates as a result? How much of these investments were added to its national debt?

    • Greg Kaan says:

      It is possible that the exports were contracted as a specific amount of power over a specific periods.

      This would explain why the coal and gas plants varied their output to keep the gap between demand and generation (hence exports) essentially constant at 2 MW after 6am on the 10th of May. In the prior hours, pumping was varied to keep the gap constant at 1 MW.

      This sort of contractual obligation would also explain why there were periods where renewable generation was not used to cover all demand

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      Willem, Portugal’s only neighbours are the sea to the west while to the north, east and south, it is surrounded entirely by Spain! The Iberian Peninsula is what I call an “electricity” island. Unlike Ireland, the Iberian Peninsula has heaps of el-storage in the form of PHES and hydro! I should add that it has lots of experience with drought and wet years!

  2. Hugh Sharman says:

    Roger! Are days in Mexico 48 or 72 hours long? Superb analysis! Keep up the good work!

  3. Beamspot says:

    Just a little off-topic clarification:

    Portugal Electrical Grid was 100% renewable, but whole Portugal was not.

    AFAIK, cars, trucks, planes, cargo vessels, heavy machinery, agricultural machinery, were still FF powered. Nitrates still came from natural gas, plastics and many other things still came from oil, steel still uses coal.

    This is just another mess created by green dreamers, the manipulation that favours the ‘all electric’ meme, fantasy (and damn dangerous wrong way).

    It doesn’t matter what technical argumens one poses against PV’s and renewables. Intermitency, seasonality, YoY variation, inestability. Costs. All of them are ignored (if they are against green dreams) with the wave of a hand.

    But if one proposes solar water heating, or solar cooking, then the green dreamers wave those very same reasons against anything not electric. If necessary then they invoke things that they never account for, like heavy storage, or even the fact that PV generates electricity when cloudy (as if reducing 90% of output doesn’t matter).

    If Solar Water Heating is cheaper (10 fold!!), more efficient (70% in front of less than 15%) and it has energy storing included, even when China has much more solar water heating than anything else, then it is also deprecated as not being ‘progress’.

    It seems that PV, like the Spanish Empire is a place where the Sun always shine…

    • oldfossil says:

      In order not to be a groupthinker, one has to be able to change hats occasionally and see things from the opposite point of view. For example if Portugal had to give away its excess renewable energy you could ask yourself, this is a bad thing why?

      So I think we should take Roger’s lead and and say, well sheet, I never believed it would happen but it did and it’s likely to happen more and more often. We could say, I think that it’s not worth the extravagant cost but there are those who think it eminently worth while.

      I think that if every nation wrote off all the sunk costs in solar, wind and biofuel and returned to FF, the world would immediately become a better place to live in, but I accept that I may be wrong. Portugal took the lemon of bad weather and turned it into lemonade. Well done.

      • Beamspot says:

        Curiously enough, I’m pretty alone defending Direct Action Renewables, not fossil fuels.

        For me, nothing of that is well done. We are diverting resources from where are needed into resources that are dubiously the way to go.

        As far as I can see, all this is fueled for greedy companies and politicians that only seek to push all people into the monopoly of electricity, and the key tool of power known as meter.

        Switching to All Electric is putting all eggs of energy into one basket that is controlled by government and very few big companies, that include all of the green lobby, business as usual, companies that like any other only want money, and power.

        I’ve conducted my own study of my energy needs, and electricity can run as low as less than 10% of my energy needs. Many of them can be, and will be in the years ahead, supplied by renewables, all of them non electrical.

        Our society takes renewable as a proxy for sustainable when it is not. Even less electricity when we need many other kinds of energy, being heat the biggest one.

        Electricity is less than 20% of our energy consumption, and in many countries is even less than 5%.

    • RDG says:

      In the end, the free electricity fantasy always comes back to hydro dams. Nobody pays the bills in the real world of windmills and solar panels.

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  5. sod says:

    Thanks a lot for this article and the full may data. Good information!

  6. Flocard says:

    Thanks roger for this quick and thorough reaction.
    What is also remarkable (for somebody living in France) is the large contribution of “small hydro” over the period analyzed here.
    As is a case in France it is stable over a short period (short = two to three weeks). I assume that the reason is that, as in France, small producers do not control their production which only reflects the amount of water flowing in the streams.
    It would be interesting to compare the typical May production of “small hydro” with for instance the September-October production.
    Unfortunately for me I was visiting beautiful Spain during that period and I can testify to very heavy rains which almost spoiled my visit. I assume it was even worse in Portugal.

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Hubert: I think you’re right. Small hydro generally isn’t regulated and therefore tends to reflect the volume of water flowing in the stream, which is a function of recent rainfall. Given the time I could probably find extended dry periods when it contributed little or nothing to Portugal’s generation mix.

  7. climanrecon says:

    Hydro must be a tricky one for the “Green” mindset, sometimes loving it for not involving fossils and for generating flattering headlines, sometimes hating it for its ecological impact and its generation of large profits for those nasty corporations.

    A key system performance indicator for hydro is its historical energy generation, which tells you how much rain is collected/evaporated without having to do extensive hydrological analysis. I hope the Portuguese have not just done a Tasmania, and consumed some of the water that they should have kept back to maintain reserves to cover the next drought.

  8. gweberbv says:

    In Fig. 2 what is the pink color indicating? Imports?

    • Roger Andrews says:

      The lavender color at top left indeed indicates imports. I just missed it when I put the legend together.

  9. sod says:

    It is funny, but if we you search the web for historic data on Portugal and renewables, the best graphs also come from Energy Matters.

    I think it makes sense to look back at an article that Euan wrote 2 years ago.


    I really like this graph, showing how gas and renewables drive away oil:


    As Flocard pointed out above, hydro is not to be taken for granted. Especially small hydro was in decline in many countries (for example in Germany), before renewables became a thing. Hydro also has to be used in a clever way. we should of course also use small hydro in a load following mode to some extend and we should not drain our reservoirs for cheap money before a drought.

    apart from that, there is nothing but to agree with this sentence:

    “Portugal took the lemon of bad weather and turned it into lemonade. Well done.”

  10. Javier says:

    Portugal is a special case, because it gets about one third of its electricity from hydro. In Spain reservoirs main function is water storage for dry periods that can run from a few months to a few years, and only in some areas or when there is surplus water catchment that water can be used for electricity generation. How many countries have enough reservoir capacity and enough rain to produce a third or more of its electricity from hydro? And we are seeing the foolishness of depending too much on hydro in Venezuela.

    The big problem with renewables is and will always be unreliability. The consequence is duplication (increase in overcapacity), more expensive electricity and increase in complexity. We will save in fossil fuels but we will have more expensive electricity and more frequent problems.

    It looks that European politicians are increasingly unable to take rational decisions, which is worrisome. It is one of the trademarks of decadence.

    • Willem Post says:


      “Amid a migrant crisis, sluggish economic growth and growing disillusionment with the European Union, right-wing parties — some longstanding, others newly formed — have been achieving electoral success in a growing number of European nations.”

      This sentence from to-day’s NYTimes pretty well sums it up. Another aspect is this:

      The weak/disoriented/irrational EU is bullied around by the US taking advantage.

      The US is using NATO to scare Europe to see Russia as an “existential” threat, and the US is economically undermining Russia by selling Westinghouse fuel rods for Russian reactors in East Europe, and by selling LNG to East Europe, and by bringing gas from the Caspian Sea, via Georgia (soon to be a NATO member), to Italy and beyond.

      All this will be at the further disadvantage of Europe, which has lost Russia as a huge and profitable trading partner.

      The US is gaining influence in Europe, and Russia, being surrounded by NATO countries at its borders, is losing influence.

      None of this has anything to do with Crimea, as that is only a pretext for continuing ongoing US mischief.

    • RDG says:

      France Nuclear Areva: Broke
      Canadian Tar Sands: Broke
      Venezuela Oil Industry: Broke
      Saudi Arabia: Drawing down reserves and going in debt
      China Ponzi Economy: Defaults increasing in number
      US Fracking: Broke
      etc etc

      But hey, Portugal with another renewables (read hydro) fantasy is doing just great. If only the oil and nuclear producers who are going bankrupt would just get with it and prosper with renewables. So old fashioned.

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  12. Euan Mearns says:

    Well done Portugal. Lots of rain, wind and sun. Not too many people and lot of land and some useful relief. So it’s really time for the rest of Europe to get a grip and get their physical and human geography sorted.

    If I was Norwegian I’d be pissed that no one is reporting their 40 straight years in a row running on 100% renewables.

    On a serious note, it has perhaps made sense for Portugal to follow the course they have followed. They are an example of Denmark-Norway combined.

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      Euan, Norway, as Europe’s largest producer and exporter per capita of greenhouse gases, from which activity it has become one of the World’s richest countries, is wisely keeping its head down.

      As oil and gas production decline, along with per GJ price, its default ownership of all those mountains makes it Europe’s price setter for buying stranded wind power at rock-bottom price and selling this back at premium prices when there is a dearth of wind.

      Why jeopardise its “climate halo” by unnecessarily drawing attention to the paradox of how Norway has and will continue to gather wealth?

  13. greeklignite says:

    http://greeklignite.blogspot.gr/2016/05/blog-post_20.html (content in Greek). Have a look at the REN data for wind on May 15-17. A total disaster.

  14. Hugh Sharman says:


    Of course, the story at http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/south-australia-graphs-60608 is the usual “Hallelujah” story one comes to expect from the indefatigable Giles Parkinson (Roger’s evil twin 😉 ?).

    But the high (and successful?) penetration by TWh of wind and sun in so many Australian states gets me wondering how their grids are stabilized?

    Maybe Peter Lang can cast some light on the matter?

    • Greg Kaan says:

      Please have a look at this article and the ones preceding it. I don’t agree with the assessment of renewables directly causing the issues in the later articles for the incident on the 28th of April, though, but they may have contributed.

      Basically, South Australia is getting away with things for the moment via low demand and Victorian brown coal via a couple of interconnectors. This coming summer, the recent closure of their last coal plant (Northern 530 MW) will heavily tax their remaining gas generation and the interconnectors. If Victoria, experiences high demand during a still, hot day in South Australia (quite likely since the summer weather often correlates), then the South Australian grid will fail

      A further 480 MW of baseload generation (gas boiler/steam turbine) is scheduled to close down after next summer which assures grid failure in the following summer (if not before). That is, unless the government comes to its senses and removes the legislation that is crippling the economics of thermal plants in South Australia (and the rest of Australia, to be honest).

      But schemes like the following indicate (to me) that the politicians have no idea of the scale of the impending disaster.

      • Hugh Sharman says:

        Thanks Greg! Do you ever go head to head with Giles P?

        • Greg Kaan says:

          Coming from someone of your stature, I’ll take that as a compliment, Hugh! 🙂 Unless you are making fun of me, that is 🙁

          Taking on Giles would be a full time job since he has made a business out of generating renewables rhetoric, to the point of having employees/contractors adding to the rhetoric.

          I have found interesting information on his site, however, but I don’t think Giles would appreciate my findings. 😉

          • Hugh Sharman says:

            No I was not teasing! He hates even a hint of scepticism on feedback. But of course, he really is “world famous”, even outside Oz and irrepressible. I also imagine, quite well heeled by now.

            Presumably, he travels the world by his own rowing boat, like all the other top greenies?


    • Greg Kaan says:

      Oh, and the penetration in other states is nowhere near as high as South Australia in the other states aside from Tasmania (re the recent hydro emergency).

      Victoria has almost the same amount of wind turbine “capacity” a South Australia but we have retained our strong backbone of brown coal generators with hydro support (which coped very nicely without the “contributions” from wind and solar PV).

      Western Australia probably has the next highest renewables penetration but most of that is domestic PV so the amount is hard to gauge. They are using South Australia as their “example” for transition away from thermal generation so the sooner South Australia backs down or fails, the better for the rest of Australia.

  15. Luís says:

    There is no statistical data yet to confirm or dispel the assertion that this was “unusual bad weather”. The weather in Portugal is ruled by the Atlantic, precipitation is usually cast by large depressions in their easterly path. At most it could be argued it is unusual in May.

    In fact, you need only to go back to February to find another 4 day period in which electricity generation from renewables permanently exceed consumption (12th to the 15th).

    Note also that the south of Portugal is presently enduring a statistical drought. The water storage ensemble in the Sado basin is currently under 50% of capacity. In the Guadiana and Mira basins it is around 70%. Right now the dams in these basins (including the largest in Europe) are simply storing as much as they can ahead of the watering season, which can not possibly be guaranteed at present levels.

    • Luis: You’re quite right. April was reported to be the wettest on record in Portugal but apart from that I have no data to tell me exactly how “unusual” the weather was. As you point out there are other occasions when Portugal exceeded 100% renewables generation for shorter periods. There will also be periods when it didn’t come close.

      The fundamental question is, do you want a low-carbon generation mix which works only when the weather is right, or would you rather have a system which emits CO2 but works all the time?

      • Luís says:

        CO2 is a red herring in this discussion.

        Portugal is presently generating over two thirds of the electricity consumed in the country from power sources that do no depend on fuel imports. Considering the weight energy still has on the trade deficit this can only be considered a major progress.

        • robertok06 says:

          “Considering the weight energy still has on the trade deficit this can only be considered a major progress.”

          Hi: before agreeing with you on this I’d like to see some numbers, some figures about the “incentives” that certainly accompany the intermittent renewables, mainly wind (since PV is not much used, rather strangely I’d say).
          Do you or anyone else here have data about the feed-in levels for wind power in Portugal?

          Thanks in advance.

          • robertok06 says:

            I reply to myself… I have made a quick search on internet, found a PhD thesis of 2014, which says that…

            “The Portuguese wind feed-in tariffs are a guaranteed incentive which has varied between $85-$180/MWh over the last 20 years (ERSE 2011), and remained approximately constant since 2001 at $101/MWh.
            They are currently guaranteed for 20 years of production or 44GWh of electricity generation per MW installed (Diário da República 2013) – the longest period among countries with high wind electricity share. ”

            st $101/MWh, approx 70 Euro/MWh, with the market MWh at historical lows in Europe (less than 40 Euro/MWh)… if this is the true level of feed-in tariffs in Portugal I’d hardly call it a bargain for the portuguese rate payers…
            True, it doesn’t add on the trade deficits, but it still is a more than two-fold cost to portuguese households and industries (before tax), how bad (or good) it really is depends on who owns the wind turbines and what they do with the money, whether it is re-invested in Portugal or it ends up somewhere else… Panama maybe? 🙂

        • Luis: Renewables in Portugal have indeed replaced oil but much of the difference has been made up with natural gas.

          It’s also important to remember that when Portugal achieves 100% renewable electricity generation it’s only half way there because electricity accounts for only about 50% of Portugal’s total energy consumption.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Luis, I agree with you on a great many things. But on renewables our views sometimes diverge. I think Portugal is doing a good job exploiting its rich renewable resources. There is a question about the line between saving on energy imports and the cost of subsidies.

      But care needs to be taken to not advocate renewables solutions that may suit Portugal for larger countries that lack the same resources.

      • Any country can generate enough power to fill its annual electricity demand by plastering its rooftops with enough PV arrays and despoiling its landscape with enough wind turbines. The problem is, as we have discussed so many times before, that this power is unusable unless a way can be found of storing the surpluses for re-use during deficit periods, which we have concluded is impossible in most cases. So what it basically comes down to in the mad rush for renewables is whether your country has hydro, and not that many European countries do. Portugal is one of the favored few.

  16. Owen says:

    We are looking at one side of the coin here which is the great renewables success.

    The other side of the coin is increased load shedding and increased use of diesel or fast acting generators.


    As efficient gas generators get out of the market, you have a low efficient generating mix on the other side of the coin :

    “The post-2010 dip in efficiency was due to increased use of
    coal, lignite and biomass, and a fall in gas-firing. About half
    of the decrease in efficiency between 2010 and 2012 is
    attributed to the change in fuel mix. Meanwhile increased
    use of coal and lignite “may have led to the increased use
    of existing lower efficiency coal plants”, the agency said.
    The steepest post-2005 declines in efficiency were registed
    in Portugal, Latvia, Finland, Turkey, Estonia, the Netherlands
    and France.”


    So the BIG question is are we better off with this two sided coin or just the efficient one sided coin before renewables ???

    (The other side of the coin does NOT get international headlines)

    • robertok06 says:

      INteresting, on the Platts pdf document the news on UK reads:

      “UK transmission system operator National Grid had to call on demand side balancing reserve November 4 to bolster security of supply on a mild autumnal day.

      A Notification of Inadequate System Margin (NISM) was issued by the TSO at 13:30 GMT in the face of multiple plant failures and very low wind production.”

      … so, we’ll see next November how long it will take to get a brown-out?

      Any bets?

  17. gabs says:

    Hmm so lignite and coal plants replace gas fired plants because they can react faster? Interesting theory. Any proof for this?

    • robertok06 says:

      Germany has put on line a couple of state-of-the-art coal power plants which are characterized by a fster-than-usual ramp rate… this was more than a year ago… can’t find the link to the news now… sorry.

    • gweberbv says:

      It is not important if coal plants are faster than gas plants. It is enough when the former are fast enough to follow the demand variations. When you look at the German data using the Agorameter (the link can be found on the right side of this page), you will find that hard coal can ramp pretty fast.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      It’s not that lignite and coal plants can react faster but that they are cheaper to operate in Europe. Exports allow for the ramping to be slower than the demand + renewables variation.

      Portugal’s relatively large hydro capacity allows them to control the exports to a large degree which prevents the need to dump, keeping the exports profitable. Germany does not have that luxury so their rate payers take the hit.

      Coal plants can certainly ramp harder than they are often portrayed but it inefficient and adds to maintenance costs

  18. RDG says:

    Are these renewable havens becoming less or more dependent on diesel fuel?

    If they can never eliminate the required diesel fuel then what are they actually accomplishing?

  19. Add diesel to gas, because they are largely interchangeable.

  20. Para melhor compreender a situação a electricidade nesses dias foi exportada para Espanha a preços que variaram entre 4€ e os 26€/MWh, sendo paga (por nós, portugueses) a mais de 90 € aos produtores. Isto é, todos nós estamos a financiar a economia espanhola!

    To better understand the situation electricity in those days was exported to Spain at prices ranging between € 4 and € 26 / MWh, being paid (for us, Portuguese) over 90 € to producers. That is, we are all to finance the Spanish economy!

    • Greg Kaan says:

      Thankyou for the update, João!

      Do you think that the price may have gone negative if the hydro and pumping (and presumably fossil fuel generation) was not used to make the exports somewhat constant, rather than simply following the excess wind?

      And do you have a link for those figures?
      In Portuguese or Spanish would still be useful in this day of Google Translate 😉

  21. stewgreen says:

    Roger Andrews wondered why the greens UNDERCLAIMED on saying Portugal was 100% renewables when they could have claimed 120%, but my thought is that then people would have started to ask what happens with that extra 20% ?

    : Portugal runs at 100% Renewables
    actually means
    : Portugal ran at say 97% Renewables, 3% conventionals whilst making VAST LOSSES on an extra 23% it gave to Spain at discount prices.

    …… and that is a more complex message than Greendreamers want to push.
    With them it’s all about PR not complex facts

    #1 A similar claim was made for Germany, but was a statistical error , that few bloggers will go back to fix.
    #2 Portugal is so low in demand and so rich in hydro that it does seem to achieve 63% average electricity from renewables, but it’s wasting huge money doing it*.
    #3 NO ONE ran on 100% renewables, cos that’s impossible ! : fossil fuels never actually switch to zero, cos they have to kept spinning for the moment the wind drops
    What can happen is that renewables can go upto say 98%, 120% etc., but that difference bit between 100% minus conventionals goes to export
    ..so at 112% , 97% is used in the home market along with 3% conventionals and 15% oversupply goes for export
    #4 Transmission losses also probably need to be deducted you can’t just balance off generation vs end-user demand.

  22. singletonengineer says:

    Picky, I know, but stewgreen (@ #3 above) seems to have overlooked the reality that Portugal is probably one of the very few nations which can balance its substantial renewables power with hydro and without any spinning FF reserve.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      That may be but they didn’t operate that way for a reason and I think it is financial. From stew and João’s comments, the “free” excess energy from the intermittent generators does not seem to be wanted by Spain, even at discount rates, without being steadied (smoothed?) by dispatchable generators.

      So while purely renewables operation is possible, it doesn’t appear to make economic sense. This would put paid to those arguments about whether more interconnectors is the only thing needed for wind and solar to operate without operational subsidies.

      • stewgreen says:

        This shows we have missed a part of the true cost of intermittents in a high intermittent generating system with a daft pricing systems
        The total cost to the consumer is all these :
        #1 What you pay the Windcorp
        #2 The extra infrastructure costs of long power transmission etc.
        #3 Other inefficiency losses, like strain on network
        #4 The losses you make on selling the super over supply like what happened in Portugal
        #5 The standby costs of the conventional powers stations*

        * If I borrow a $1 billion to build a gas power station at 10% interest rates (that’s $100m year), then I need to run at almost flat out to keep my costs down. If I only run 50% of the time, then during that 50% offtime I am paying workers for standing around plus fixed costs like interest charges, but not gas costs. So if you say I must switch off sometimes cos wind has priority then I have to try to get higher prices.
        What I should get is a price per MWh supplied plus a standby fee
        ..and that standby fee would not be incurred if it weren’t for intermittents being given priority, so it should be added to their costs.

    • stewgreen says:

      Yes @singletonengineer I agree wit you there..but it’s interesting to think that non hydro rich countries like Germany UK will have even more FF plants running if they get 100%+ situation

      • singletonengineer says:

        I don’t buy the notion that Germany could possibly be “100% renewables”, even if they had 2- or 3-times overbuild. They are already contemplating a 200%+ situation. The proofs are in the observations that (1) they are still constructing a couple of dozen coal burners and (2) their energy-related CO2 emissions are reported to be only very marginally reducing over time.

        Germany is on the road to certain failure. The cost of their energy revolution already exceeds 1 trillion, that’s 1,000,000,000,000 euros. Some of their heavy industries that haven’t left yet have announced plans to leave in the future if their electricity costs climb or supply becomes unreliable. Even the renewables industry magazines are citing figures of 6 or more trillion for Germany’s longer term goals. For example: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/what-will-the-energiewende-cost-72885.

        Germany already relies on its many interconnected neighbours in order to balance, synchronise and support the renewables at the current levels. If not for French nuclear and their many cross-border connections with other countries, Germany would need other ways to handle their surpluses and shortages. Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic, among others, are either reinforcing their transmission networks or are operating them at their limits when Germany wheels their surpluses of supply and demand across the borders.

        Where is the all-Europe master plan for the period after the projected French and Swiss wind-backs of nuclear power? Where will European steel come from after the last blast furnace shuts down? Will Europe send most of its heavy manufacturing to Asia, India or South Africa as Australia has done with its steel and white goods and auto industries?

        As someone wrote recently, what’s the purpose of a HVDC connection between northern Africa and northern Europe? If large scale solar electricity ever becomes reliable and cheap, then why not shift the industrial loads to Morocco instead of constructing a hugely expensive HVDC grid which produces absolutely nothing?

        I appreciate that this comment has veered all over the place, but where is the sanity in Europe’s current energy plans? How is a wind+solar (+gas?) future for the continent going to be better than expanded nuclear?

        Note, I haven’t taken sides here regarding CO2 emission reduction. This is because at present there is no such thing happening, whether in the electricity industry or more generally, including heating, transport, industry and agriculture. Growth exceeds the few reductions on both the European scale and globally. In the context of this comment, CO2 is irrelevant.

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