According to a new report from the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), Costa Rica has been running solely on renewable energy for the past two months straight—a total of 76 days between June and August.
This marks the second time in the last two years the Central American country has run on non-fossil, renewable fuels. This brings the total number of days of exclusive non-renewable energy use to 150 for this year alone.
Costa Rica demonstrates that, at least for small countries, life without fossil fuels is actually possible.
Costa Rica’s National Centre for Energy Control (CENCE), announced that June 16, 2016 was the last day fossil fuel-based energy was used by the national grid. The country has since been powered using a mix of hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar energy— hydro power providing the country with an estimated 80.27 percent of the total electricity in the month of August. Geothermal plants provided about 12.62 percent of electricity generation in August, wind turbines provided 7.1 percent, and solar 0.01 percent.
Thanks to heavy rainfalls, the country’s four hydroelectric power facilities greatly supported the milestone for the country. But, while the news is nothing short of positive, it is important to note that Costa Rica’s success is largely as a result of its small size. With a population of just 4.9 million people and a total area of about 51,000 square kilometres, the country is about half the size of the US state of Kentucky. Such a small population requires much less energy than the US would.
“This nation of 4.9 million people generated about 10,713 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2015, according to a July report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean,” explained Maria Gallucci. “The United States, by contrast, generated about 373 times more electricity, with roughly 4 million gigawatt-hours of total generation in 2015, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.”
Furthermore, Costa Rica’s main industries are tourism and agriculture, as opposed to more energy-intensive industries like mining or manufacturing. Even after putting this into perspective, Costa Rica’s feat is impressive and shows the active part they are playing in protecting the environment.
In fact, a massive hydroelectric project called Reventazón that has taken six years of construction, run by the Costa Rica Electricity Institute (ICE), is expected to come online later this month. This means even more hydro power is to come.
“Revantazón is the largest public infrastructure project in Central America, after the Panama Canal,” noted Gallucci. “The dam’s five turbines will have a generating capacity of 305.5 megawatts – enough to power around 525,000 homes.”
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According to Carlos Manuel Obregón, the executive president of ICE, the project will bring “stable and renewable energy for the benefit of all sectors in the country.”
Costa Rica is clearly a model for renewable energy use. In 2015, 98 percent of their electricity came from hydroelectricity, geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass powers, while a mere 1.8 percent of their power was generated by burning fossil fuels. While it may not be an energy model that can be applied to just any nation, it does provide an example of what’s possible with very little fossil fuel use.
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