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22 February 2012

Electricity consumption in Portugal collapsing

When Portugal committed together with the other members of the European Union to the 20-20-20 targets in 2006 it would be perhaps difficult for its political leaders to imagine that they would reached so soon. Six years later energy consumption in Portugal is declining in almost all fronts, the European Energy Policy has become largely irrelevant in this state. In recent days it became known another staggering figure, last month electricity consumption fell 6.3%, the largest contraction on record. This figure already has in account consumption seasonality and climatic variations, being thus set aside any transitory effects.

If in a first phase where the high prices of road fuels that fostered this energy consumption collapse, since 2010 it has been the recessive policy of the European Council guaranteeing the demand contraction. With the sudden hike of VAT on electricity late last years, from 12% to 23%, and the salary cuts imposed this year, the effect was immediate. It is to expect this contraction to last for the remainder of 2012, considering that the salary cuts will force many families to default on their mortgages, this way leaving more homes empty, that do not consume electricity.

Apparently this austerity policy is having a positive effect on Portugal' s commercial deficit, the foremost element of the economic crisis the country faces. But this effect is merely numerical, naturally the impoverishment of the population reduces the amount of imported goods, but no economic reform has been put in place to reduce foreign dependencies, especially in the sectors of Energy and Agriculture. Any subsequent effort to retake growth shall hit the same old problems of a transport infrastructure almost entirely dependent on Oil and on an anaemic agricultural production. Any expansion of economic activity will continue to imply an expansion of the commercial deficit. While this knot isn't undone there's no way out for Portugal.

The austerity policy is, in face of this context, a way for whom leads the country and the European Council to neglect power. It is a turn of the backs on the responsibility invested on elected politicians to lead their citizens, to look out news paths into the future. They limit themselves to a scared (or scary?) rhetoric, that neither solves nor reforms, but simply spreads poverty. These are leaders that will hardly ever be remembered positively.