Costa Rica is enriching our climate by getting all its electricity from renewable energy sources this year. Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Costa Rica’s national electric company says that the country hasn’t used any fossil fuel sources to supply electricity to its grid for since the start of the year, or for 75 days, when the announcement came out.
The agency said that “the year 2015 has been one of electricity totally friendly to the environment for Costa Rica.” This is mainly because of the heavy rains they had this year which kept their four major hydroelectric plants running at full capacity. Whatever remaining power requirements were supplied by either geothermal, wind, solar and biomass.
This comes as a very remarkable achievement considering that most of the country’s population has access to electricity, with a household connection rate of 99.4%, the second highest penetration rate in Latin America. The best part is that it is working out for the country’s citizens, ratepayers are expected to pay 12% less for electricity this year up until the middle of the year.
Costa Rica is in this very enviable position because they made great use of their natural resources. The tropical country is surrounded with dormant volcanoes with great hydrological structure, allowing them to tap geothermal power in a big way. They approved US$ 958M in geothermal projects last year alone. Furthermore, they have a lot of rivers that could be tapped for hydroelectric power. All this they could finance because they have no military to subsidize since abolishing the army back in 1948.
Unfortunately, the country is also vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Droughts have from time to time reduced the power output of their hydroelectric power plants, which produce most of the country’s electricity.
Just the same, the country, along with Sweden, Bulgaria, Estonia and the tiny Caribean island of Bonaire, has helped lead the way in adopting an energy mix with a very high proportion of renewable energy. It’s the shift to renewables that has been a key factor why CO2 emissions didn’t increase last year.
We hope that with Costa Rica’s experience, the coast will not just be clear, but rich as well, for renewable energy.