"Wind and water are our nuclear power"

A small country with big plans, Portugal bets on renewable energy.

Published June 6, 2008 4:45PM (EDT)

Portuguese poetry from Manuel Pinho, Portugal's economics minister:

"Wind and water are our nuclear power."

Pinho was referring to Portugal's ambitious renewable energy plans, which include hydropower, a huge new solar "farm," and offshore wind and wave power. But not nuclear.

The full quote:

"When you have a program like this there is no need for nuclear power. Wind and water are our nuclear power. The relative price of renewables is now much lower, so the incentives are there to invest. My advice to countries like the U.K. is to move as fast as they can to renewables. With climate change and the increase in oil prices, renewables will become more and more important."

Portugal's goal is to produce 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Guardian provides a handy chart of how selected European countries are currently faring on their environmental goals.

The top performers:

Sweden 2005 39.8 percent, target by 2020 49 percent

Latvia 34.9 percent, target 42 percent

Finland 28.5 percent, target 38 percent

Austria 23.3 percent, target 34 percent

Portugal 20.5 percent, target 31 percent

The bottom-dwellers:

Cyprus 2.9 percent, target by 2020 13 percent

Netherlands 2.4 percent, target 14 percent

Ireland 3.1 percent, target 16 percent

Netherlands 2.4 percent, target 14 percent

Belgium 2.2 percent, target 13 percent

UK 1.3 percent, target 15 percent

For comparison purposes, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics for the year 2006, the U.S. gets about 7 percent of its power from renewables.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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