Theory and practice


Energy policy has many dimensions, domestic- international, competition- regulation, technologies- public policies, companies, etc. My involvement included the following:

  • Domestic- international: creation of the Iberian electricity wholesale market, renewable energies targets and close collaboration with the EU Commission on the Strategic European Energy Technology Plan
  • Technologies: refusal of the nuclear option, instead focus on natural gas, wind and hydro, no (or very little) solar, given that its cost was prohibitive
  • Public policies: feed in tariffs determined by auctions

However, the hardest task has been, by far, to solve the serious problems of state- related energy companies

  • Galp (oil) was on shambles following an ilegal decision taken by a previous decision of a socialist government to sell the company to ENI a company controlled by the Italian government
  • EDP was paralyzed because the EU Commission did not authorize the company to have a natural gas monopoly and IBERDROLA had plans to ultimately take over the Portuguese incumbent. Former socialist government officials acted one behalf of the Spanish Company.
  • Natural gas regulated assets were transferred to REN, the grid operator, and the company was subsequently partially privatized.

Driving the European Agenda by national example

ANDRIS PIEBALG European Commissioner for Energy 2004-2010

I have been the European Commissioner for energy from 2004 to 2010. This was the time of formulation of first clean energy policies, decisive decisions for further development of European internal energy market and strengthening the security of supply. Dr. Manuel Pinho has been Portuguese Minister of Economy and Innovation from 2005 to 2009 and that means that he has been my counterpart in Energy Council practically during the whole mandate. I am addressing below the main decisions we have taken in the EU energy policy during that period with his support and leadership.

Renewable energy

Today renewable energy is accepted nearly everywhere as a cost-efficient energy source. That was not the situation 10-15 years ago. EU needed to agree on renewable energy directive with binding national targets in it. Moving from 8,5% of RES share in energy supply in 2004 to 20% in 2020 was not at all easy to agree. Dr. Manuel Pinho helped a lot. He had a lot of trust that with the increased use of RES costs will substantially come down for clean electricity generation. His ambition supported by Portuguese government to have a national target of 31% of renewable energy in Portugal’s energy mix by 2020 helped immensely to convince more reluctant governments. It is not only  vision that matters, action is also needed. In very short time Portugal’s installed capacity for wind powered generation increased from 1000 to 3000 MW, and installed capacity for solar increased by 20 times. Dynamic was so strong that Portugal nearly reached its target already in 2015. Dr. Manuel Pinho can be proud that his pioneering actions allow us to speak of the full decarbonisation of electricity supply in the EU in next two decades. Progress on wind and solar let us hope that we could manage to stop the global warming by 1,5 degree.

The bold step of harnessing sea energy also deserves mentioning. If you don’t try you never win.

Dr. Manuel Pinho was also instrumental in the creation of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), that is crucial in global promotion of renewable energy.

Strategic Energy Technology Plan

Dr. Manuel Pinho believes in Europe’s potential to be the world leader in clean energy technologies. The challenge in Europe is that developments are fragmented. Responding to his initiative the European Commission proposed SET-Plan, that today is recognised as the Technology Pillar of the EU’s energy and climate policy. It follows the whole innovation chain, it mobilizes diverse actors to achieve ambitious goals, it is an instrument of more targeted and efficient spending and mobilizing resources.

Dr. Manuel Pinho could be satisfied that his initiative continues to evolve in responding to the new climate and energy policy challenges.

EU’s internal market

During Dr. Pinho’s time in office very crucial decisions have been taken in integrating EU’s gas and electricity markets. The third package was agreed with his important contribution. I well remember his permanent emphasis that energy markets should bring better prices for European households and industry. With his support the recovery package was used to strengthen Europe’s interconnectivity and to support the diversification of EU’s energy supply. Dr. Manuel Pinho always has supported European Commission in difficult negotiations in the Energy Council.


Politics is lonely business, you know that you bear full responsibility and you should be strong. Still a friendly support matters a lot. I will always keep in my memory the support from Manuel. He could be a tough negotiator, but at the same time a very good and honest friend. I was blessed in my carrier to meet him.

Share this article