Costa Rica is now running on 100 percent renewable energy

The photo shows a small wind farm in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Sam Beebe (cc)

Costa Rica has been getting all of its electricity from renewable energy sources since the beginning of the year. “The year 2015 has been one of electricity totally friendly to the environment for Costa Rica,” the state-owned power supplier Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced in a press release.

The country hasn’t had to use any fossil fuels so far in 2015, much thanks to heavy rain that has kept the country’s hydroelectric power plants working at full capacity without any interruptions. This accomplishment is no random luck, it’s the result of hard work to reach the country’s goal to become carbon-neutral by 2021, as Costa Rico announced back in 2009.

“We are declaring peace with nature,” Costa Rican ambassador Mario Fernández Silva said in 2010 when his country won the Future Policy award. “We feel a strong sense of responsibility about looking after our wealth of biodiversity. Our attitude is not progressive, it is conservative. Our view is that until we know what we have, it is our duty to protect it.”

Costa Rica has also generated additional electricity from various other renewable energy sources – such as wind, biomass, geothermal and solar energy. Last year, hydropower accounted for 80 percent of the total electricity used while geothermal reached upwards of 10 percent.

Approximately 94 percent of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable energy sources. But their energy system is sensitive to climate and weather disruptions due to their hydro power plants being based on so called run-of-the-river systems. They can therefore be hindered because of seasonal changes in water flow or drought – something which is becoming far too common due to climate change.

CleanTechnica reports that Costa Rica are planning to build three new geothermal projects, capable of generating 50-55 MW each, to help diversify their energy portfolio. These new geothermal plants will help Costa Rica to continue to produce clean, renewable energy when the country’s hydropower plants are unable to produce electricity.

It’s worth pointing out that Costa Rica is a small nation with a population of only around 4.8 million people. The country also does not have much heavy and energy-intensive industries, and mainly relies on tourism and agriculture. Despite this, Costa Rica’s accomplishment gives us hope and it should inspire other nations to increase their renewable energy efforts.


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