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Costa Rica

While Costa Rica transitions to renewable energy sources, the U.S. is still relying on coal and natural gas to supply most of its electricity. (Photo: Arturo Sotillo/flickr/cc)

Costa Rica Has Been Running on 100 Percent Renewable Energy for Months

Costa Rica's electrical grid has relied solely on renewable energy sources for 76 days straight, aiming for an all-renewable future

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Costa Rica's electrical grid ran on 100 percent renewable energy between June 17 and September 2, according to a report published Tuesday by the state-owned energy company, Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), which controls energy production and distribution. (Data after September 2 has not yet been released.)

"We are a small country with large goals!" ICE wrote on Facebook, alongside a video about Costa Rica's plans to become "the first carbon-neutral country" by 2021.

The small central American nation has relied solely on renewable energy sources for a total of 150 days so far this year, and aims to eventually use 100 percent renewable energy sources at all times.

However, a full 80 percent of Costa Rica's renewable energy generation comes from hydropower, which is certainly "not without its faults," as Ecowatch observes:

Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado argued that hydropower is actually "one of the biggest environmental problems our planet faces" and a "false solution" for addressing climate change.

"Hydropower has been called a 'methane factory' and 'methane bomb' that is just beginning to rear its ugly head as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that have so-far been unaccounted for in climate change discussions and analyses," Wockner said last month.

The Guardian also noted last year that hydropower requires consistent rainfall, which means that during periods of drought, the country's utilities are all but forced to burn fuel.

Of the rest of the country's electricity generation, about 12 percent comes from geothermal sources and seven percent from wind turbines, the report says. Solar power supplied only 0.01 percent of the country's electricity needs.

"Costa Rica's stretch of fossil fuel-free days this year follows its even cleaner results from 2015," Mashable notes. "Last year, Costa Rica logged 299 total days without burning oil, coal, or natural gas for a single megawatt of electricity."

Mashable observes that the Central American "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."

By contrast, the United States generated about 4 million gigawatt-hours of electricity that same year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and burning fossil fuels comprised the lion's share of that electricity generation.

About 33 percent of electricity in the U.S. came from burning coal, 33 percent from burning natural gas, and 20 percent from nuclear power. A scant 13 percent came from hydropower and other renewable sources.

Sweden, Portugal, and Denmark have also recently had great success with transitioning their electric grids to mostly rely on renewable sources, as the Independent reports.


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