Costa Rica may be a small country, but it aims high when it comes to clean energy. Back in 2015, it generated 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources for 299 days, and back in 2016, it ran for 271 days on anything but fossil fuels.
Now it appears it’s just bested its 2015 achievement, having run for 300 days on a mixture of hydro, wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar energy. This stellar record goes hand-in-hand with the government’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2021, a deadline that was set up more than 10 years ago.
According to a new report by the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity, (ICE), with six weeks left of 2017 to go, it looks likely the total number of clean energy-powered days will increase.
Carlos Manuel Obregón, the executive president of ICE, explains that improvements to the grid, and upgrades to various clean energy power plants, have helped them reach this new zenith.
Although this is great news, some caveats are necessary.
Costa Rica’s small size and population mean that it can accomplish these laudable goals without the same difficulty that, say, China, the US, or the countries within the EU are currently experiencing. It also has abundant natural resources – particularly hydropower and geothermal sources – that many countries lack.
It must also be pointed out, however, that Costa Rica has had the foresight to not invest in fossil fuels, when others did not. Additionally, said industry holds no significant sway over its government, which has set back climate mitigation efforts elsewhere by decades.
Yes, the impact of Costa Rica going completely fossil fuel-free would also be, on a practical level, quite insignificant. It currently produces 1,241 times less greenhouse gases than China, for example, so its contribution to fighting climate change is relatively minor.
Nevertheless, records like this new renewable milestone hold enormous symbolic power. They demonstrate that a commitment to clean energy makes sense on both an environmental level and a socio-economic level.
If anything, countries like Costa Rica show other developing nations – particularly its neighbors, and plenty of nations scattered across Africa – that you don’t need coal to power your country when various forms of clean energy work just fine.
Problems still exist in the Central American nation. Unlike many developed countries, Costa Rica has no plans to replace the million or so cars still using dirty internal combustion engines, which do indeed have a noticeable negative effect on both air quality and the climate.
Nevertheless, when it comes to energy, the wealthiest nations on Earth are lagging far behind places like Costa Rica. In this sense, this slice of paradise is a harbinger of brighter days to come.