Spain, Portugal to set up energy research centre

Spain and Portugal will set up a joint renewable energy research centre, the leaders of both nations said recently.

The Iberian Renewable Energy Centre in the southern Spanish city of Badajoz near the Portuguese border will help the two nations improve their expertise in this area, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates said.

“This is absolutely essential for nations like Portugal and Spain since the reduction of our dependence on oil is strategic for our future,” he said at a joint news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The centre will be headed by Portugal’s Antonio Sa da Costa, the current vice president of the European Reneable Energy Federation.

The socialist governments of both nations have made it a priority to boost spending on training and technology to make their economies more competitive.

Portugal, which is almost entirely dependent on imported energy, aims to collect 45 percent of its total power consumption fron renewable sources like solar and wind power by 2010.

Spain aims to triple the amount of energy it derives from renewable sources by 2020. It is already among the three biggest producers of wind power in the European Union along with Germany and Denmark.

Socrates also re-affirmed that both nations aim to have a high-speed rail link between Lisbon and Madrid, and another between the Portuguese capital and Vigo in northern Spain, completed by 2013 despite calls from Portugal’s main opposition party that it be scrapped.

“I don’t want the country to fall behind and remain outside of the network of high-speed rail links in Europe,” he said, calling the project “absolutely essential”.

Portugal and Madrid have agreed that one of the stations along the high-speed rail link between Lisbon and Madrid will be between the border cities of Badajoz and Elvas in Portugal, Socrates said.

The Spanish government plans to have 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) of high-speed railway track in place by 2020, meaning 90 percent of Spain’s population will live less than 50 kilometres from a bullet train station.

Earlier this month the leader of Portugal’s centre-right Social Democrats, Manuela Ferreira Leite, said she would shelve the project if her party is elected in a general election expected at the end of the year.

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