Renewable energy is the next frontier of industry. Once the wrinkles have been ironed out, companies and countries everywhere will be making some major investments.
In Sweden, those investments are already being made.
Following the pattern of Scandinavian countries at the forefront of clean energy, Sweden announced in late September that they would be investing $546 million in the 2016 budget towards becoming the world’s first fossil fuel free nation.
In a press release issued by the Government Offices of Sweden, Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson said, “The Government is investing in what makes Sweden strong. In our Sweden, more people will have a job, school performance will be turned around and climate emissions will be reduced.”
This goal aligns with Sweden’s announcement last year to make Stockholm fossil fuel free by 2050, an ambitious, but not altogether unrealistic, goal. Sweden already has an impressive résume of green energy initiatives, and has been a pioneer in sustainable development for a while. In 2014, Sweden generated roughly two thirds of its total energy consumption from low-carbon and clean sources, according to an article in Bloomberg.
That number is incredibly significant, however, it includes nuclear power--something that Sweden is heavily committed to. Nuclear power is still hotly debated, with some claiming it’s the greenest solution to the current energy crisis, while others saying that the benefits will never outweigh the risks. Whether or not you approve, nuclear power is a big part of energy generation in the world.
Sweden generated about 40 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants in 2014. Still, it’s planning closing the doors of numerous older reactors in the near future as it refocuses on renewable energies.
A country this big making an announcement of this significance is bound to make waves internationally, but there are others that are also doing their part.
Earlier in 2015, Costa Rica generated 100 percent of the country’s energy needs through renewable sources, mostly due to heavy rains and geothermal energy. In the first quarter of 2015, heavy rainfall near the country’s four main hydroelectric power plants meant that they didn’t have to burn any fossil fuels for energy generation.
It’s important to note that Costa Rica has about half the population of Sweden at about 4.8 million, and hydroelectric power comes with its own ecological problems. Nonetheless, this is still an important milestone. It shows that fossil fuels are not necessary.
Hawaii is also joining the renewable energies movement. The tiny island state currently imports 93 percent of all of its energy, and has the highest prices for electricity in the United States. In an effort to combat this reliance on imported energy, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill mid-2015 to generate 100 percent of the state’s electricity needs through renewables by 2045. If this happens Hawaii will become the first state in the union to go completely renewable.
Countries around the world are working toward a completely renewable future. Iceland recently announced that 100 percent of its energy generation and heating requirements came from hydroelectric, geothermal and domestic renewable energies. In 2014, Scotland produced 40 percent of its energy through renewable sources.
Sweden is just the beginning. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the world currently has the resources and technology to go renewable--we just need leaders to agree, in unison, to divest in fossil fuels and unsustainable futures.