Portugal aims to phase out the burning of coal and cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, according to a new decree, but it already boasts a major supply source of pollution-free power. In 2012, Portugal began exporting electricity to countries in Africa and the Middle East, according to the Climate Group. It also exports energy to large European markets, including countries in the former Soviet Union. The export power, some have pointed out, paradoxically leaves these countries more vulnerable to serious climate impacts.
It’s difficult to know precisely how much coal Portugal is selling. Companies in the renewable energy sector say the country is pushing energy providers to bid for specific markets, seeking low prices, instead of letting them vie for commercial deals to sell power across borders. A report from Euromonitor estimated that Portugal’s trade in solar panels alone amounted to a whopping $200 million in 2017. If each new solar power plant that Portugal was offering was generating electricity at a cheaper price, it would cause a lot less emissions.