Costa Rica has taken a worldwide lead when it comes to renewable energy. According to a statement released by the government-run Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), the country used renewable sources for 99 percent of its energy in 2015. With a goal of becoming 100 percent carbon neutral by 2021, the small Central American nation used a mix of geothermal, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and biomass energy. That’s fantastic news! But can other countries replicate Costa Rica’s success?
Costa Rica is lucky in many ways. The country has lots of rivers and lots of rain, which make hydroelectric power an easy, logical choice. That accounted for three quarters of the country’s 2015 energy production alone. It also has easy access to geothermal power, thanks to over 100 volcanoes. It also helps that the country’s industry depends largely on tourism, agriculture and technology rather than energy-sucking manufacturing industries which tend to be more environmentally disruptive.
The good news for Costa Ricans is that renewable energy is also cheaper for the people. Energy costs for Costa Ricans fell 12 percent in the last year. Admittedly, oil prices also dipped this year, but unlike oil there aren’t major spikes and dips in renewable resource costs the way there are with fossil fuels.
The country’s switch to renewable energy was done partly out of necessity. Venezuela, Latin America’s largest oil producer, went bankrupt, and Costa Rica had to quickly find alternatives to that nation’s rapidly rising oil prices.
However, that’s not to say that the country’s efforts aren’t admirable. Denmark became a leading supporter of sustainable energy in the 1970s, for instance, but only because of a worldwide oil shortage. When Arab nations briefly refused to sell oil to western nations that it deemed pro-Israeli, panic ensued. But in Denmark people used their heads, creating less wasteful alternatives that last to this day. Other Scandinavians countries like Norway also generate a majority of their energy from renewable resources, which is funny since Norway is also Europe’s largest oil producer.
Other nations around the world are creating long-term plans to cut carbon emissions and become more energy-efficient. By 2030 India plans to produce about 40 percent of its electricity from solar, wind, and hydropower resources. Progressive Uruguay, meanwhile, has also made healthy strides away from fossil fuel dependence.
In the United States, cities and states have taken wildly different approaches to renewable energy. The most progressive is Hawaii which, like Costa Rica, has geothermal power as an advantage. They plan to move entirely towards renewable energy, but not until 20X0 (basically, the indeterminate future).
Costa Rica’s plan is great, but like Denmark, it’s a small country whose efforts aren’t being matched by larger neighbors. Costa Rica is roughly the size of West Virginia, but more densely populated. Its population of 4.8 million rivals that of the state of Alabama.
Now imagine the impact if a country the size of the United States committed fully to renewable energy resources.
(featured image via Armando Maynez/Flickr)