It’s a happy new year in Costa Rica, where the nation’s Electricity Institute has reported that 98.1 percent of the electricity used in 2016 came from renewable energy sources. This is the second consecutive year that Costa Rica has proven the power and reliability of renewables, after hitting 99 percent in 2015. While the achievement isn’t surprising, given that the country’s leaders have been ambitiously pursuing (and coming close to) this goal for several years, it is still important. What Costa Rica has accomplished shows the world that relying on renewable energy is not only possible, but that it can become a reality much earlier than many skeptics believe.
The reasons behind Costa Rica’s high renewable usage are numerous, and sort of complicated. For starters, the per capita electricity consumption in the nation of 4.9 million people is much less than, say, that of the typical American. In fact, the average Costa Rican uses just one-seventh the electricity that Americans do. With less electricity in demand, it’s much easier to supply those needs with renewable sources, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be possible for the United States to reach the same astounding figures with the proper infrastructure.
Related: Costa Rica celebrates 113 days of 100-percent renewable energy (and counting)
Costa Rica’s climate has also made it a bit easier to become powered almost entirely by renewables. The area’s plentiful rainfall positions hydropower as the primary renewable energy source, supplying around 75 percent of the electricity used each year. Solar and wind power make up most of the remaining portion, again due to the perks of the geographic region. While 99 and 98 percent in 2015 and 2016 are insanely respectable figures, the Costa Rican government is aiming higher for 2017 and beyond, with four new wind farms to generate even more clean energy.
Costa Rica is no leader in renewable energy. As the article notes, most of its energy comes from hydro and in most parts of the world hydro is already fully or over-exploited. Solar power is less than one half of one percent and wind power is 2% of total electricity production.