Portugal has announced that it will put an end to burning coal by 2021, two years earlier than first forecasted by the European nation.
The announcement comes after Portuguese energy provider, EDP said it would close its Sines coal-fired power plant, which has brought-forward Portugal’s exit-date from coal by two years.
Sines was responsible for more than 13% of Portugal’s overall CO2 emissions in 2016.
Coal’s share of the energy mix in Portugal specifically has fallen by 95% in the first half of 2020, according to a report from Reuters.
Initially, Portugal was planning its exit from coal-fired electricity plants in 2023, however after the announcement, Portugal looks set to remove coal from its energy supply mix by 2021.
This will make Portugal Europe’s third country to close its coal-fired plants earlier than expected, after Sweden and Austria made similar moves in early 2020. Belgium was the first European country to close its coal-fired plants in 2016.
A number of other European countries have set a deadline for their exit from coal-fired electricity production by the middle of this decade.
France has said it will exit by 2022, Slovakia by 2023, the UK by 2024, and Ireland and Italy by 2025, according to Europe Beyond Coal’s statistics.
We reported just last week that for the first time in recorded history, renewables had provided more than 40% of electricity in the EU, while coal’s share continued to drop. The numbers came from the European Commission who said that thanks to the jump in renewables, “the power sector seems to be on track for another double-digit decrease in CO2 emissions in 2020.”
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EDP said in a statement that “the decision is part of EDP’s decarbonisation strategy, which involves the early closure of plants in the Iberian Peninsula,” and will also close another coal plant in Spain.
Executive President of EDP, Miguel Stilwell has said that “last year, we saw an inevitable reduction in the prospects for profitability of coal power plants, with the rising costs of CO2 and more competitive prices for natural gas.”
“The decision to anticipate the closure of coal power plants is a natural consequence of this energy transition process, in line with the European carbon neutral targets and with the political will to anticipate these deadlines,” Stilwell concluded.
Christine Shearer, Program Director at the Global Energy Monitor told Retuers that “the fact that such a rapid decline has taken place indicates the increasingly uncompetitive economics of coal power.”
Kathrin Gutmann, director at the Europe Beyond Coal Campaign has told Climate Change News that “Portugal had already accelerated its coal phase-coal from 2030 to 2023. The fact that it is being brought forward yet again to 2021 shows just how fast a country can clean up its energy system when it commits to clean energy and climate action.”
“Governments that have yet to plan a speedy coal exit are losing precious time to put in place ambitious coal exit plans that reflect market and policy realities.”