A post-carbon world is still a far ways off, but countries around the world are working hard to achieve that goal.
China is investing hundreds of billions of US dollars in solar energy, Germany has developed cutting-edge wind technology, and 20 countries recently announced their plans to give up coal entirely by 2030.
One country, however, is much closer to bringing about that reality than others.
Costa Rica currently gets 99.62% of its energy needs from renewable sources, which has allowed it to reach 300 days in which no fossil fuels were used for energy production this year, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity. That surpasses the country’s previous record of 299 days last year, and it may go further beyond that mark considering there are six weeks left in the year. (It’s useful to point out that Costa Rica still burns fossil fuels to power vehicles and for other needs outside the electricity grid).
Sweden gets the second highest proportion of its energy from renewables at 51%, according to the Independent. The US currently gets around 15% of its energy from renewables and China aims to get 20% by 2020.
Three features have allowed Costa Rica to become the leader in renewable energy.
First, the country has a unique renewable energy portfolio stemming from its geography. The vast majority of its renewable energy, 78.26%, comes hydropower because the country is striped with powerful rivers and has above-average rainfall.
That doesn’t mean Costa Rica is skimping on other renewables — it gets around 10% each from wind and geothermal.
The second factor is the country’s relatively small population, which stands at 4.86 million.
The third and most important reason for Costa Rica’s dominance is political will. The country’s leadership has recognized the threat posed by climate change and has urgently pursued renewable energy.
Years before the Paris climate agreement compelled countries to consider carbon-neutral targets, Costa Rica had set one in 2011 for 2021. That decisive action has allowed the country to nurture its renewable energy industry and it can be seen in another recent initiative to ban single-use plastics by 2021.
“My country has been committed to sustainable development for decades, even before that concept was embraced by the UN,” Costa Rica’s President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera said in a video announcing his country’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement.
“Life without fossil fuels is indeed possible,” he said.