Costa Rica’s green example

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Costa Rica, a small Central American country of almost five million people, has achieved a great global primacy. For more than 80 days Costa Rica has run on 100% renewable energy sources. Costa Ricans managed to cover their energy needs mainly from hydroelectric power assisted by geothermal energy, sun, and wind.

Heavy rainfall over the past few months has given priority to hydropower plants to produce all the energy, but even when the rain stops, other systems– namely geothermal, solar, wind- will take over to fill the gaps. The government banned the use of coal and oil last December. The fact that Costa Rica is a relatively small country with no industrial production with an emphasis on agriculture and tourism makes it easier for the country to meet easier its energy needs. In any case, it is a great achievement.

Flickr

Flickr

Having abolished its army in 1948, the Costa Rican government zeroed the costs for armaments and invested its budget in energy autonomy and peaceful purposes. In mid-2014, the country approved a $958 million proposal in order to invest in new geothermal plants, which will exploit geothermal energy from volcanoes. This project is being co-funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the European Investment Bank, and it is expected to be located in Guanacaste near Rincón de la Vieja.

As the impacts of climate change become more severe, the need to reduce carbon emissions becomes ever more urgent. Thus, it is very important to increase the use of renewable sources. According to Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP, “renewables made up nearly half of the net power capacity added worldwide in 2014.” At a rough estimate, 9.1% of world electricity in 2014 was generated by climate-friendly energy technologies like wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, small hydro, and marine power.

Fortunately, many developing economies worldwide are also trying to be energy independent. China holds last year’s record on renewable energy investments with $83.3 billion, up 39% from 2013. The U.S. comes second at $38.3 billion, up 7% on the year (below its all-time high reached in 2011). Japan is third at $35.7 billion, 10% higher than in 2013 and its biggest total ever.

It is high time world leaders took action to go green as markets have matured and technology prices continue to fall.

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About the author

Irini Chassioti is a teacher and chemist with a master’s degree in Environmental Chemistry and Technology. She was born and raised in the northern suburbs of Athens and is an active member of the local city improvement association. Her activities include the protection of the local ecosystem, writing scientific articles related to environment, ecology and sustainable development and the education of pupils on environmental issues.