ONE WITH NATURE

Portugal 2019 | ENERGY & GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

All of EDA's efforts with regard to renewables are in line with the environment because nature is one of the Azores' most important assets.

Duarte José Botelho da Ponte
BIOGRAPHY
Duarte José Botelho da Ponte is President of the Board of EDA. He is a university professor, with a degree in chemical engineering from the faculty of engineering of the University of Porto and a PhD in food technology from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. He was pro-rector for planning and infrastructure at the University of the Azores. He is a member of the PRAXIS XXI National Advisory Council and coordinator of the Economics and Development panel of the Convention for a New Autonomy. He was formerly also Regional Secretary for Youth, Employment, Commerce, Industry and Energy in the VII Regional Government of the Azores.

What steps have you been taking to modernize and maximize the efficiency of EDA's operations?

Some 10% of EDA belongs to Energías de Portugal (EDP), and we have strong links with it. The government's plan was for EDA to have a strategic partner as one of our stakeholders so that the advances in the energy industry elsewhere would also be passed on to the Azores. In addition to EDP, we try to cooperate with other companies and bring state-of-the-art practices and technologies to the Azores in various ways. Although we are geographically small, we constantly work to improve quality and introduce as many innovations as possible. The Azores has 246,000 inhabitants and users. We produce about 800GWh year-round and need to do this in a way that preserves quality and processes that are state of the art.

How does EDA support the overall development of the Azores and its economy?

We do so by providing excellent service. We do not set the price of the tariffs, which the Energy Services Regulatory Authority (ERSE) regulates. We provide a great service for our clients that meets their needs, continue to improve the quality of what we do, and put in place best practices and state-of-the-art systems and processes.

What steps are you taking to rationalize the utilization of electricity?

One such step is efficiency; we work to have our clients on the best tariffs possible so that they use energy at night instead of consuming it during periods of peak day demand. We do promotions for these tariffs and provide incentives for using equipment that is more environmentally friendly, for example, electric systems that heat hot water for homes at night when electricity demand is lower, which is also preferable to having a gas water heating system. Customers are given a discount when purchasing such equipment and can pay over a four-year period.

How important is renewable energy to EDA, and what role will it play in the company's future?

In 2017, renewables accounted for 37.5% of our energy on the grid. Most of this was geothermal while the remainder was generated through our hydropower plants and wind farms. It is possible to increase this figure to 40% in 2018. In the near future, we want to increase the capacity of our geothermal plants by adding 9MW at our plant in São Miguel and 6MW in Terceira. This will give us a higher penetration of renewables on the grid. It is possible to have more than 50% renewables on the grid within four years; however, we need to solve the issue of how we store energy generated at night. We may be able to replace some thermal units with battery storage, and there are several studies ongoing at the moment to look into this issue.

Do you anticipate any opportunities for joint venture partnerships or investors in the future?

We are working with several companies. However, we can proceed without any problems if new investments in storage are feasible because we know exactly what to do in terms of geothermal energy. First, we need to solve the problem of storing energy between midnight and 8am, when consumption is low. The challenge with renewable energy is that we cannot export it as one would on the mainland, for example, whereby Portugal exports to Spain or France. Here in the Azores, each island is isolated. Once we solve the storage issue, we can increase our renewables to 50% without help from other parties and use our own funds and investments.

What steps are you taking to safeguard the islands' natural resources?

Our goal at EDA is to be in harmony with nature. We want to significantly increase our renewable energy capacity in the islands, though we want to do this with care. This includes preventing high CO2 and other emissions that pollute the environment. We also want our clients to understand that the best protection for the environment is to save energy and use it carefully.