Being Green in Portugal and Spain
By Jessie Spangler
This past fall semester, I took a Water Resource and Policy class, which required us to research water and energy policies in different countries. Knowing that I would be in Portugal and Spain soon, I did some research for an assignment about Portugal and Spain’s renewable energy resources.
According to Energy Transition, Portugal is currently attempting to move toward using 100 percent renewable energy. In April 0f 2016, 95.5 percent of Portugal’s electricity generation was completely renewable. In 2010, half of the country’s energy production came from renewable sources.
Once I came to Portugal, signs of the country striving to be as energy efficient as possible became more and more obvious. In Lisbon, at the first hotel my class and I stayed at, all of the rooms had a power switch.
In the U.S, it’s common to leave the lights on most of the day, especially in businesses. Hotels never have lights off, and I have yet to see motion-detector lights in a hotel, like we did in Faro. Another thing I observed in Faro was using the key card to activate the lights and the air, and each room was only given one key card. That way, when no one is in the room, energy can’t be wasted by having the air running or by leaving the lights on. The halls were also dark, because they wouldn’t turn on until they detected movement, which saved energy by keeping the lights off if no one was there.
While staying in hotels in Spain, I noticed the same thing with the hotel key cards – when you think about it, it’s a great way to save energy. There is obviously more of a conscious effort in both Spain and Portugal than I have ever seen in the U.S. to be more energy efficient.
Europe has a couple of policies focused on energy efficiency and protecting the environment. In 2012, an initiative called the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan united countries in Europe, including Portugal and Spain to come up with action plans in 2014, and these plans will be in place until 2020. Each year, countries must submit reports recording achieved progress toward national energy efficient targets to the European Parliament. The whole document on it can be found here.
There is also the Paris Agreement that both Spain and Portugal are a part of – the aim of the agreement is to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.” To do this, the countries that are a part of the agreement (which is basically all of them except for the U.S.) are taking measures to ensure that the global temperature rise stays below two degrees Celsius within the next century. The agreement is also striving to strengthen the ability of countries to react to climate change. For more information on the Paris Agreement, check out the United Nations’ page on it here.
The difference between the level of environmental consciousness in Portugal and Spain and the U.S. is astounding – just the fact that so many people in the U.S. do their best to fight the truth and science of climate change is ridiculous. In Europe, there seems to more of an understanding that climate change is real and harmful, and that many steps need to be taken to try and save our Earth. In the U.S., most businesses do not take steps to try and be more green, like I saw with many businesses in Spain and Portugal. Hopefully, the U.S. will learn over time (preferably sooner rather than later) that the environment is something that needs attention now, and that being more environmentally conscious of our actions will go a long way.