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Portuguese irrigators, who pay for the most expensive electricity in Europe, request government support to produce green energy

Fenareg advocates that irrigation communities be granted public support for the installation of solar energy production equipment and that renewable energy communities be implemented in agriculture to achieve better conditions.

9/16/2021

Photovoltaic panels to get energy for irrigation.

Energy represents two thirds of the total cost of irrigation in Portugal and, with the current escalation of fuel prices and one of the most expensive electricity bills in Europe, many farms are at risk of ending the year with zero or negative results.

The situation was denounced at a conference organized on September 7, at the Agroglobal fair, in Valada do Ribatejo, by FENAREG - National Federation of Irrigation of Portugal and by COTR - Competence Center for National Irrigation.

"Due to the rise in diesel prices – of more than 50% between January and September 2021 - and electricity, there are agricultural sectors that will have a zero or negative financial result this year," acknowledged Eduardo Oliveira e Sousa, President of the President of the Confederation of Farmers of Portugal.

On the other hand, collective irrigation, which represents almost half of the national irrigated area, supports extremely high energy costs, which reach 75% of the value of the water supply service to farmers. To alleviate these costs, FENAREG advocates that irrigation associations be awarded public support for the installation of solar energy production equipment and that renewable energy communities be implemented in agriculture to manage surpluses, achieve better sales conditions, reduce costs and carbon emissions.

During the conference, the Federation also underlined the need to create seasonal electricity contracts for agriculture, a situation that has already existed in Portugal in the past and is a reality in neighboring Spain.

Luís Mira Amaral, professor at Instituto Superior Técnico and former Minister of Industry and Energy, keynote speaker at the conference, urged farmers to become energy specialists: «Farmers must be active agents, investing in their own production of renewable energy , becoming energetically independent from the grid, through the production of photovoltaic panels or associating with each other and constituting local energy communities, in which some produce and others consume».

The Confederation of Farmers of Portugal is preparing to sign a protocol with EDP for the installation of photovoltaic panels on farms with a view to producing electricity for self-consumption and sale to the grid. "This agreement will allow farmers to establish themselves as electricity producing units from solar parks, based on 100% financing by EDP, or alternatively, EDP can finance itself in the construction of solar parks, exploiting these parks , with the guarantee that the farmer will pay 30% to 40% cheaper electricity than at present», explained the president of CAP, who intends to obtain aid from the Recovery and Resilience Plan and the new Multi-annual Support Framework to operationalize the creation of these agricultural solar parks.

Luís Mira Amaral regretted that the Government had not eased the tax on petroleum products in a scenario of rising fuel prices and suggested that the Executive should invest the revenues from carbon emission licenses, one of the main sources of financing for the Environmental Fund, in the lower electricity costs. "The CO2 revenue has increased a lot and, therefore, it must be injected to lower energy costs", defended the former Minister.

Rogério Ferreira, general director of Agriculture, said that under the Strategic Plan of the Common Agricultural Policy, to be in force from 2023, “it is important to support investments for the production of renewable and less costly energy, to evaluate and consider eligible the associated measures to public irrigation in the construction of photovoltaic plants for new and existing irrigation systems and to create the conditions to achieve sustainable irrigation”.

The Chairman of the Order of Engineers, Carlos Mineiro Aires, a commentator at the conference, warned that it is essential to "safeguard the country's sovereignty" with regard to water storage for agriculture, industry and urban consumption. "We are at a crossroads where we all have to think together and find the best solutions to solve our problems at home, because if we are going to count on others maybe things go wrong for us", said the engineer in an allusion to the Convention of Albufeira, Portuguese-Spanish agreement on international rivers.

FENAREG

FENAREG is a national, non-profit public utility association, founded in 2005, which groups entities dedicated to the management of water for irrigation, both surface and underground, with the objective of joining efforts and will in defense of their legitimate interests and in promoting sustainable development and the competitiveness of irrigation. It currently has 30 members representing more than 27 thousand irrigating farmers, that means more than 95% of the national organized irrigation.

COTR

The Portuguese Competence Center for National Irrigation is a non-profit association that aims to promote agrarian development through the coordination and promotion of scientific research, experimentation, demonstration and dissemination of results and training and professional qualification in the field of irrigated crops. It currently has 35 members, including institutions and public bodies, local authorities, higher education and polytechnic establishments, farmers associations and private companies.


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