For seventy-five days straight during the first months of 2015, the nation of Costa Rica did not burn any fossil fuels to generate electricity. Instead, as a result of heavy rainfall, hydropower plants generated almost all of the country’s electricity. The country’s geothermal, wind, and solar energy sources made reliance on coal and petroleum sources unnecessary.
As Myles Gough reported, Costa Rica’s primary industries are tourism and agriculture, which require little energy, compared with industries such as mining or manufacturing. The nation also has topographical features (including volcanoes) that are conducive to producing renewable energy.
Both Lizzie Wade, writing for Wired, and Lindsay Fendt, of the Guardian, noted that the heavy rainfall that allowed Costa Rica to generate all its electricity from renewable sources in early 2015 is likely the result of climate change. (Most years, Costa Rica generates approximately 90 percent of its electricity without burning fossil fuels.) Drought would seriously disrupt Costa Rica’s ability to generate electricity with hydropower. As Wade reported, in 2014, Costa Rica “declared a state of emergency in the country’s northwest because of an El Niño-fueled drought,” which forced utilities to switch on some diesel generators. Nevertheless, as Gough noted, “100 percent renewable energy generation, for any extended period of time, is an enviable achievement.”
Other communities, cities, and countries aim to follow in Costa Rica’s footsteps, Adam Epstein reported. Bonaire, a Dutch island territory off Venezuela’s coast operates on nearly all renewable energy sources; Iceland already produces 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources, with about 85 percent of all its energy from geothermal and hydropower source; and Denmark obtains 40 percent of its energy from wind, with plans to cease all fossil fuel use by 2050.
In the US, Samantha Page reported, “Hawaii is on its way to having the greenest grid in the nation.”57In May 2015, the state legislature sent a bill (HB 623) to the governor’s office that requires all electricity provided by electric companies to come from renewable sources by 2045. Around the world, over fifty cities, including Vancouver, Canada; San Diego and San Francisco, in California; and Sydney, Australia, have announced their progress towards 100 percent renewable energy. Some are aiming for 2020, others by 2030 or 2035.
Myles Gough, “Costa Rica Powered with 100% Renewable Energy for 75 Straight Days,” Science Alert, March 20, 2015, http://www.sciencealert.com/costa-rica-powered-with-100-renewable-energy-for-75-days.
Adam Epstein, “Costa Rica is Now Running Completely on Renewable Energy,” Quartz, March 23, 2015, http://qz.com/367985/costa-rica-is-now-running-completely-on-renewable-energy/.
Student Researcher: Lauren Kemmeter (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)