Portugal’s revised National Energy and Climate Plan 2030 (PNEC 2030) has sparked debate and criticism among environmentalists regarding the role of hydrogen in the country’s energy transition.
The plan, recently published by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Action (MAAC), aims to double the capacity of electrolysers to 5.5 GW by 2030, contributing to supply security and decarbonization efforts. However, environmentalists argue that injecting hydrogen into the natural gas network is inefficient and perpetuates fossil fuel use, calling for a focus on green hydrogen utilization in high-temperature industrial sectors instead.
The association Zero, known for its environmental advocacy, expresses concern about the injection of hydrogen into the gas pipeline alongside natural gas, asserting that it requires at least 30% more hydrogen production compared to local production. Zero advocates for limited hydrogen use produced in close proximity to consumption sites to avoid expensive and inefficient transportation while ensuring risks are properly evaluated. The association emphasizes the need for a comprehensive plan for green hydrogen that maximizes renewable energy utilization and avoids wasteful practices.
Portugal’s Secretary of State for Energy, Ana Fontoura Gouveia, acknowledges that the National Hydrogen Strategy requires updating to align with the current context. Gouveia reveals the intention to triple the production targets for green hydrogen by 2030, aiming to decarbonize existing industries and attract new ones. The government’s goal of reaching 2.5 GW of electrolysers by the end of the decade is expected to contribute to the country’s energy storage strategy and support the production of sustainable aviation fuels.
While the MAAC underlines the anticipation of incorporating renewable energies in electricity production, with a target of 80% renewable energy by 2026 and 85% by 2030, Zero praises the expansion of renewables but expresses doubts about implementation due to licensing delays and administrative challenges within the energy sector. The PNEC 2030 also emphasizes the decarbonization of the national economy across all sectors, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 2005 levels, and increased renewable energy capacity, including a significant boost in photovoltaic solar power.
Environmentalists criticize the PNEC 2030 for falling short in achieving energy efficiency targets, addressing energy poverty, and promoting renewable incorporation in the transport sector. They argue that the goal of 35% energy efficiency by 2030, reducing primary energy consumption, and achieving a 23% renewable incorporation in transport is insufficient, calling for a more ambitious aim of 29%.
As the revised PNEC 2030 heads to Brussels for review, Portugal finds itself amidst a lively debate between government initiatives, environmental concerns, and the need for a comprehensive and sustainable energy transition strategy. Balancing the utilization of hydrogen, optimizing renewable energy potential, and addressing licensing and administrative challenges will be crucial to successfully navigating the path to a decarbonized and climate-neutral future.