Renewables

According to Eurostat, Portugal’s GDP dropped this year by 5,4%, the greatest fall in Europe! Rating agency Moody declared, that Portugal is one of the countries most affected by the pandemic as small and medium-sized companies represent a large proportion of the GDP and its high dependency on tourism. The IMF is pessimistic about the recovery, expecting only a small surplus of +0,5% from 2024 onward.

Fortunately, the energy transition gains momentum.
Closure of the coal-fired power plant in Sines means a 12% reduction in the national emission of greenhouse gases every year!

If it is up to the socialist government, Portugal will become a major producer and exporter of green hydrogen (H2) gas. If all goes well, there could be 50-100 hydrogen stations by 2030, and is the percentage of hydrogen incorporated in the national gas network 10-15%.

A planned 1.5 billion industrial project near the deepwater port of Sines will produce 1GW of renewable electricity from solar and wind and 1 GW of green hydrogen from electrolyzers, provided the EU co-finances this integrated ecosystem.

Another climate-friendly project is the initiative of the Water Treatment Plant (ETA) to become neutral in energy consumption. This so-called ClorH20 program combines the production of hydrogen with that of chlorine, necessary for the disinfection of water. Instead of importing liquid chlorine, ETA will build an electrolyzer, that not only produces hydrogen but chlorine gas as well.

A British-US consortium is to invest 3.5 billion euros to build one of Europe’s largest sustainable data centers with access to trans-Atlantic fiber-optic cables in the port of Sines. Dubbed Sines 4.0, the center – with a 450 MW capacity and a zero carbon footprint  – is expected to create up to 8,000 highly qualified jobs by 2025.

On the first of June the submarine optic cable EllaLink – connecting Europe to South America – was inaugurated in Sines by the Portuguese Presidency of the European Council.

Local Braga company Rosseti Engenharia has signed a 23 million contract for a mega solar parc in the Alentejo province, capable of generating 100 GWh, enough to provide over 30,000 homes with green electricity.

Environmentalists warn that the race to embrace solar energy can have disastrous effects on the environment if these parks  – some of them stretching over 1,000 hectares – are being built in sensitive areas. 

Lithium – a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles and mobile phones – plays an essential role in the energy decarbonization agenda. As the north and center of the country have an abundance of this so-called ‘white gold,’ Portugal is keen to play its part. However, tenders for possible exploration are to exclude natural parks and Natura 2000 areas.

As a result of this ruling, the Government decided this year to cancel a contentious 500 million lithium mining project in the uppermost northern Montalegre region, a United Nations Agricultural Heritage site.


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Malpractice

‘The elected politician nowadays is more a delegate of the party than a representative of the voter’
(Ramalho Eanes, former President of Portugal)

More than 80% of the Portuguese are of the opinion that corruption – is an essential part of business. In the Eurobarometer inquiry, more than three-quarters of the population – who claim to have witnessed a case of corruption – admit not having reported it.

Last year the country dropped on the Corruption Index – published by Transparency International (TI) placing itself in 33rd place (of 180 countries) with 61 points, the lowest score ever. ‘Over the past 10 years, little to nothing has been done to fight corruption and the result is an expression of this drift’, explains the president of TI-Portugal Susana Coroado.
Since 2016, only four crimes of bribery to foreign agents – all involving Angolan companies – have been investigated and none has resulted in sanctions.

In September the Council of Ministers approved the National Strategy for the Combat of Corruption, forcing public entities and private companies to address endemic threats of mismanagement. Those who do not comply with the new obligations, risk being fined but those who confess corruption might be forgiven.

The judiciary on her part stressed the lack of transparency in the funding of political parties. ‘No serious strategy should leave out the administrations of municipality councils nor the financing of the campaigns of political parties’, Manuel Soares – president of the Judge’s Syndicate – stated on radio. ‘People who are financed when exercising public office favor the companies and entities that pay them.’

Up until now, the Constitutional Court has rejected laws against ‘illicit enrichment.’ But in the wake of Operation Marquês, the tide has turned.
The Association of Portuguese Judges is now aiming at ‘reinforcing transparency in the exercise of public functions, with criminal liability in the case of non-compliance and President Marcelo de Sousa wants the Government to move forward and punish those in public office who become ‘unjustifiably rich.’

A recent survey showed the deeply rooted distrust of the population as to how politicians are properly monitored for corruption and the capacity and reliability of Justice to investigate them. Portuguese consider the President the most reliable (65%) in the fight against corruption, followed by the Government (42%) and the courts (23%).

But there are also international concerns, in particular about money laundering. At the beginning of this year, the European Commission has opened legal procedures against Portugal for incorrectly implementing EU anti-money laundering rules into its national law.


The good news, however, is – also for Brussels – that the controversial Golden Visa program for foreign real estate investment in the coastal and metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto is coming to an end this year.


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