The excellent solar energy availability in Portugal - between 1740 kWh/(m2.year) in the South and 1430 kWh/(m2.year) in the North for radiation in the horizontal - gives to Portugal the opportunity to decrease its traditional dependency on energy imports, which are coming down in the last years mainly due to wind energy contribution, but also due to a combined contribution of energy efficiency measures, solar, biomass and hydro sources. The statistics of energy in Portugal were also affected by the anaemic economic growth, far from projections of one decade before, leading to a dependency of the country in conventional energy imports, which is still around 76% at the end of 2013 (source: Energy balance sheets, Eurostat statistical Books - 2013 data, doi:10.2785/388553.)
The use of solar energy in Portugal in thermal applications is strongly connected to building applications, residential and services, through the usage of flat plate collectors. The values collected by APISOLAR (Portuguese Solar Industry Association) show that at the end of 2015, the total installed capacity is above, but still around, 1million m2 (1.121.104 m2 (784.773 kWth)) of solar collectors and when we look to the annual evolution along the last decade, we can easily notice the importance of the national energy policy and available financial and fiscal incentive programs. The impact of those subsidies on the 2009/2010 sales is clear (coincident with the peak of those incentives and easy access to bank credit) as well as the last five years decrease, without those incentives and a recessive environment of Portuguese economy.
This puts the Portuguese market on a modest place within European countries (<200 000 m2 annual), although with average installed capacity per 1000 inhabitants of 63,6Wth when European average is of 61,4 (values for 2014 according to “Solar Thermal Markets in Europe - Trends and Market Statistics 2014, ESTIF, June 2015).
In the National Action Plan for Renewable Energies (PNAER) is foreseen the installation of solar thermal collectors at 11.5% annual average rate until the year 2020, in order to achieve a total capacity of 2.2 million m2 on that date. However, contrary to the objectives of the Plan it was registered an annual average decrease of 30% between 2010 and 2012, and a decrease of 37% in 2013. From 2013 to 2014 and from 2014 to 2015 the decrease was of circa 9% each year. These figures demonstrate the need of an extra effort in the upcoming years until the year 2020.