Recently, there seems to be an uptick in small nations or islands setting their sights on becoming increasingly, or completely, powered by non-fossil fuel energy sources, particularly renewables such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power. This is welcomed news in a world that – despite recent advances in tackling climate change by the U.S. and China – remains relatively paralyzed in its ability to make substantial changes to how it deals with climate change.
Earlier this year, Costa Rica met the entirety of its national power demand using renewable energy for 75 days straight. Shortly afterwards, the U.S. state of Hawaii passed legislature decreeing that, by 2045, the entire island will be powered by renewable, sustainable energy sources. Denmark, one spectacularly windy day in July, generated 140% of the nation’s electricity demand through wind power alone, as reported by the Guardian. Remarkably, much of the excess was given to Germany, Norway and Sweden.
Sweden may have taken this to heart, because just last month they announced that they will be spending an extra $546 million (£360 million) on renewable energy and climate change action, beginning with their budget for 2016. The ultimate aim is as ambitious as it is honorable: They hope to become one of the world’s first nations to end its dependence on fossil fuels. Solar energy, in particular, has seen its budget increase by 800%.
Although this nationwide goal has not got its own timetable yet, the Swedish government has announced that its capital of Stockholm aims to be powered only by sustainable energy sources by 2050.
This announcement couldn’t come soon enough: The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held this year in Paris, is beginning at the end of November. Sweden’s – and Denmark’s – climate change initiatives will hopefully influence the less keen attendees of the conference to begin to adapt their own countries’ energy grids.
The Ecologist reports that Sweden is also closing its nuclear power plants, although this is mainly due to their aging infrastructure. Nevertheless, no replacements are planned, with the government preparing to use only renewable energy sources. It should be pointed out that nuclear power plants are often lumped together with fossil fuel power plants as being just as harmful to the environment. However, in terms of climate change, nuclear power plants have a negligible carbon footprint more in line with renewables, as reported in Nature.
Governments often stop using nuclear power plants in response to political pressure, demonstrated by Germany's recent move. In this case, the Fukushima crisis in Japan – caused by a once-in-a-lifetime natural disaster – prompted the German government to phase out its nuclear power plants by 2022, according to BBC News.
Germany, of course, is a country that does not suffer from tsunamis or dangerous earthquakes; there is a near-zero risk for any such crisis occurring to any nuclear power plants there.
Despite also eschewing nuclear power, Sweden is on track for becoming a nation powered by sustainable, renewable energy sources alone by the next half-century, which is a remarkable feat. Two-thirds of the country’s electricity is generated from non-fossil fuel energy sources already, mainly through hydroelectric and nuclear power generation. It will be interesting to see how replacing their nuclear power plants with renewables will hamper or assist them on their path to becoming a fossil fuel-free nation.