The European renewable energy directive states an ambitious national target for Portugal: The southern European country is to reach a renewable energy share of 31 % in its total energy demand for 2020. At the same time, the government has shown a strong commitment to renewable energy technology: It is determined to be among the five leading European countries when it comes to exporting solar and wind technology.
The government's emphasis is on wind energy, with a targeted output of 8,500 MW in 2020. Nevertheless, of the available range of technologies, solar thermal is considered an important one as well. The national target for it is a newly installed collector area of 1 million m2 in 2010, which is to increase to 2.5 million m2 per year in 2020. The government set the aforementioned target in 2008, but most likely, it will also be the solar thermal target stipulated in the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) that the Directorate General for Energy and Geology (DGEG) will draft in close cooperation with the Portuguese energy agency Adene.
The national targets for solar thermal are challenging compared to the 86,820 m2 of newly installed collector area in 2008, which was supposed to have grown to 125,000 m2 during 2009. “We experienced high market growth in the second half of 2009, because of the new incentive programme,” João Correia de Oliveira, advisory consultant of Apisolar (the solar industrial federation in Portugal), explained. He believed the renewable building obligation to be responsible for only 25 % of the market size since the building sector is down.
“We also want to propose the creation of a national website, 'info solar', that will offer the latest news on the sector to potential costumers,” explains Correia de Oliveira. This website should also provide installers with technical information on quality assurance and after-sales service. “Info solar should include a database of the installed systems that are to be monitored and could also offer a reminder service for installers, who will receive an SMS if the next maintenance service is necessary”. Apisolar will finalise the website in December and present it to Adene thereafter.
Since it seems that the economy ministry in charge of the incentive scheme will extend the programme for another year, next year's prospects for the national solar thermal market look extremely good. Since March 2009, purchasers of residential solar water heaters receive a subsidy of around EUR 1,641 per system (see www.solarthermalworld.org/node/629 and www.solarthermalworld.org/node/630). In the meantime, 40 solar system suppliers have been registered with the scheme and 9 banks handle the incentive packages.
Commercial clients, such as the Private Social Solidarity Institutions (IPSS) or sports clubs, have also had access to the programme since September 2009. “These systems must produce an amount of energy exceeding 55 to 75% of the previously existing energy needs,” explained Correia de Oliveira. Subsidized are up to 65% of their investment costs.