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November 25, 2008

Why many destinations should follow Portugal’s lead on sustainability

In recent years, Portugal has developed some of the strongest environmental credentials of any European destination, something that could well appeal to businesses looking to reduce the carbon footprints of their meetings and events. In fact, Turismo de Portugal makes the bold claim that it is “now a world leader in renewable energy”.

Conscious that both businesspeople and the general public are placing more emphasis on sustainability when choosing destinations to visit, Portugal is forging ahead in its use of renewable energy technology. Businesses can now visit knowing that the energy resources used on their trip – in hotels, restaurants, venues, resorts, etc – are increasingly from carbon-reducing renewable energy sources.

On target

Portugal has already exceeded the European Union’s target of achieving 20% of its energy consumption by green, renewable sources by 2020. In fact, it’s on track to achieve 45% of all its power from renewable sources by 2010.

Frederico Costa: Portugal is an excellent destination for those looking for a ‘greener’ option

Being one of the sunniest countries in Europe, Portugal has invested heavily in capturing solar energy. Three of the world’s biggest solar power plants are being built in Portugal, including the world’s largest in Moura in the south. This solar plant comprises 350,000 solar panels spread over an area the size of 150 football pitches.

What’s more, Europe’s largest wind farm with 120 wind turbines is currently being constructed in the Minho Valley, northern Portugal. When complete it will supply enough energy for the equivalent of around 12% of Portugal’s energy requirements.

Crest of the wave

Most recently, taking advantage of its beautiful coastline, Portugal became the first country to launch a commercial wave power farm. The complex in Póvoa do Varzim, northern Portugal, generates power by harnessing energy from the Atlantic Ocean’s waves, using undersea cables to connect the farm to the Portuguese national grid.

Needless to say, Dr Frederico Costa, vice president of Turismo de Portugal, is proud of his country’s environmental achievements.

“With 220 days of sunshine a year and 800 kilometres of coastline, Portugal boasts some excellent natural advantages for the development of renewable energies,” he says. “With business people and holidaymakers becoming increasingly concerned about their environmental footprint, Portugal is an excellent destination for those looking for a ‘greener’ option.”

With Portugal clearly making a firm commitment to sustainability and working hard to protect the environment, it begs the question why others, not just in Europe, but across the globe, are not making similar efforts. The only hope is that the additional business it should hopefully generate due to its improving green credentials will encourage others to follow suit.

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