Susana Martinho Lopes investigates how Portuguese homes can become more energy efficient.
WORDS Susana Martinho Lopes
Energy efficiency is a broad concept influenced by factors such as the efficiency of electrical equipment, the quality of construction, the use of renewable energy, but also the behaviour we adopt in our daily lives.
Despite the mild climate, the energy efficiency of buildings in Portugal is low enough to make the Portuguese the citizens of the European Union, most exposed to the cold and heat inside their homes. Houses that are too cold in winter are too hot in summer, forcing excessive energy consumption with consequences for the environment and the country’s economy, leaving families with fewer resources in a situation of energy poverty.
According to data from the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology, buildings – including homes, businesses and public services – represent around 30% of final energy consumption in Portugal. However, it is estimated that 50% of this consumption can be reduced through energy efficiency measures, representing an annual reduction of 400 million tonnes of CO2.
Energy efficiency is, therefore a fundamental dimension of the energy transition process. Recognised as a serious problem, energy poverty has integrated the European Union’s agenda in the design and implementation of policies and strategies for the energy sector which allow compliance with the objective of climate neutrality to be achieved by 2050.
In recent years, support programmes have been created such as the Support Programme for Sustainable Buildings and the Vale Efficiency Programme, which aim to combat energy poverty and reinforce the renovation of buildings. The programmes include various types of support such as the installation of self-consumption solar systems, solar thermal systems, reinforcement of insulation and replacement of windows, among others. Despite the relative success of the measures, the scope of the programmes was limited, notably because they were less accessible to the most vulnerable classes. Besides the fact that the maximum limit of eligible expenses is low – between 200€ and 4,500€, in a sector where prices are quite high – the programme is designed in such a way that the investment is made without the applicant having the certainty of receiving the support.
However, even after implementing measures that allow for greater energy efficiency, it is important not to forget some good practices: adjust the contracted power to your needs, analyse the hourly breakdown tariffs, choose efficient appliances, completely switch off appliances when not in use, switch off heating or cooling in empty rooms, use management and monitoring systems that optimise the operation of the equipment.
Remember that the cheapest and least polluting energy is that which we do not consume and therefore do not need to produce.