Costa Rica has been operating completely on renewable energy for more than two months. A latest report shows that the Central American nation didn’t use any fossil fuel for 150 days in 2016. More than half of the 150 days were the 76 straight days between June and September. This has proved that it is possible, for a small nation at least, to operate without any fossil fuel.
The country had made headlines for doing the same thing last year, and this is the second time that they have gone fossil fuel free for more than two months. A report by Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), the state-owned energy company that is responsible for the production and distribution of energy in the Central American nation, showed that between June 17 and September 2, the country’s electrical grid ran completely on renewable energy.
The ICE posted the following video on Facebook with a positive message.
“We are a small country with great goals!
We remain committed to the goal of carbon neutrality for 2021.
We have big goals and we have accomplished, we are the example of the world.
Come on, yes we can!”
The model set by the small central American nation, however, isn’t something that can be easily be copied by big Industrial nations such as the United States. Reporter Maria Gallucci points this out in her report for Mashable. Costa Rica, a nation with a population of 4.9 million people, generated 10,713 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2015. To put things in perspective, the United States generated about 373 times more energy, at 4 million gigawatt-hours, in the same year. Not only are there more people living in the United States, at 318 million, but its economy is largely based on industries that require a lot of power such as mining and manufacturing. Costa Rica’s primary industries, in contrast, are tourism and agriculture.
Also, it is worth noting that a large portion of Costa Rica’s renewable energy is generated from hydropower. The country is set to launch yet another massive hydropower project, called the Reventazón, later this month. Gallucci points out in her report that the Reventazón is Central America’s largest public infrastructure project since the Panama Canal, with the dam’s five turbines generating enough energy to power 525,000 homes.
But hydropower, which the country so much depends on, as Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado points out, is certainly not without its faults. Gary calls hydropower one of the biggest environmental problems that our planet faces and considers it a false solution to 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.”
Also as the Guardian pointed out in an article about the realities of Costa Rica’s renewable energy in 2015, hydropower depends on the consistency of the rainfall, meaning that periods of droughts would eventually force the nation to burn fossil fuels. The article notes that the unpredictability in rain patterns, something common throughout the world nowadays, is one of the primary effects of climate change. And if Costa Rica were to build reservoirs to cope with occasional droughts, that would ironically end up doing more harm to the environment, which could, in turn, end up contributing more to climate change. The same article, however, praises the nation for its efforts and points out how the energy prices were set to fall between 7 to 15 percent on April that year.
But one cannot help but praise the Central American nation for its efforts. Not only is their current approach leagues better than burning fossil fuels, but is also more beneficial to the people paying for the electricity. The guardian article pointed out that the country’s energy prices were set to fall between 7 to 15 percent in April that year.
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