Costa Rica has achieved an extraordinary clean energy milestone by running solely on renewable energy for more than 75 days. Heavy rainfall in the region has enabled the country to completely forgo fossil fuels, and run almost entirely on electricity generated from four hydropower plants—with a little extra help from geothermal, solar and wind projects. With more renewable energy infrastructure in the works, it looks as though this trend might just continue long into the future.
The state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced the news this week, noting specifically that they have not had to tap into fossil fuel-generated energy at any point so far in 2015. The Latin American nation has a lot going for it in terms of green energy growth; it has a small population of just 4.8 million, ample rainfall to power four hydroelectric power plants and a multitude of volcanoes that provide ripe ground for geothermal facilities.
Diversification is also important. While the hydroelectric plants produced 80 percent of Costa Rican power in 2014, it does leave the nation rather at the behest of climate patterns. Additionally, as Jake Richardson of Clean Technica told Science Alert, “There are also some environmental downsides to hydroelectric dams more generally, namely the impact on riparian ecosystems and passing fish.”
About ten percent of power was generated by geothermal plants last year, and the government approved a $958 million geothermal project in the middle of last year. Funded largely with loans from European and Japanese banks, the project is comprised of three facilities will provide additional 150MW of clean power.
All of this works towards Cost Rica’s aim to become completely carbon neutral by 2021—and to avoid tapping into oil deposits that are located along its coastline. It’s a pretty extraordinary effort by a small nation, and one that, as Quartz points out, has largely been possible because Costa Rica has not had a military since 1948—which frees up significant resources for funding renewable energy infrastructure.