What are leading nations in renewable energy?
What better way to improve our commitment to carbon reduction and renewable energy than to learn from those nations that have had the most success to this point? Let’s check in on some of the world’s leaders in renewable energy.
In 2015, Costa Rica pulled off one of the most incredible feats in the history of renewable energy: for 75 consecutive days, the entire nation ran exclusively on renewable power. Seventy-five days; ZERO emissions. The huge rains in Costa Rica give the nation a great opportunity to generate hydroelectric power, and they have taken advantage.They kept up that amazing record in 2016. During the entire year, the nation claims to have generated 98.1% of its total electricity supply from renewable sources. Unfortunately, the country admits that it has a long way to go in terms of its demand of natural gas. When it comes to electricity, though, it’s tough to beat their achievements.
In Sweden, it’s all about the future. In early 2016, the nations’ leaders met and signed an agreement to have 100% of the nation’s power come from renewables by 2040. That sounds like a long time compared to Costa Rica, but it’s leading the way in the European Union and is an example to admire. Sweden actually relies most heavily on nuclear power, which has been controversial – in the ‘70s, Sweden planned to phase out their use of nuclear plants by 2010. However, when 2009 came around, the nation switched course and reinvested in nuclear power. There are concerns amongst the citizens after the Three Mile Island incident in the USA, but, at least in Sweden, nuclear power has passed the test of time.
Denmark is known for a lot, but one thing it’s really begun to make a name for itself in is the generation of wind power. In fact, Denmark generates a higher percentage of its energy from wind than any other nation in the world. In 2014, that number was as high as 42.7% (57.4% of its total power came from renewables).
Many of the wind farms in Denmark are actually offshore windfarms – they are stunningly beautiful and are part of a movement that’s gaining steam everywhere – just last year, the first offshore windfarm in the USA began operating, off the coast of Rhode Island.
Morocco may not be talked about as much as three nations above when it comes to renewable energy, but they are currently building what will be the largest solar plant in the world in the middle of the desert. The first portion of the three-stage project has already been turned on and is operating. Previously, Morocco imported up to 97% of its energy. Building its own, proprietary plant will be a huge step in cutting long-term costs and supporting renewables globally.
China presents a fascinating case in renewable energy. The fact is, China actually produces more renewable energy than any other nation on Earth – and it’s not even close. They lead the world in net production of wind and solar energy, and one statistic actually estimates that their combined hydro, wind and solar energy generation is equal to that of France and Germany combined. Fortunately, the renewable sector continues to grow at an exciting rate in China, despite currently producing only about 20% of the nations’ total energy. The bad news is that China is also by far the largest net producer of carbon dioxide emissions – China alone contributes about 30% of the global total. In a country as large as China, it’s no surprise that things take a long time to materialize. While there are signs of encouragement in China, there is still a long way to go.
The renewable energy sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, but, like in China, it has a long way to go. In 2015, we generated just over 13% of our total electricity usage from renewable sources – not bad, but not even close to the leaders like Costa Rica, Denmark and Sweden. The biggest contributor to our renewable energy generation is hydropower, which makes up over 6% of the total.
I think it’s fascinating to see the way different nations take advantage of the resources available to them when considering their energy needs. Think about it – it rains a lot in Costa Rica, so hydropower makes sense. Denmark has extremely high winds, and they generate a huge amount of wind power. Morocco is made up in large part by desert – they are generating lots of solar power. Hopefully huge nations like the US and China can follow suit and continue to build toward carbon reduction and renewable energy generation goals in the years to come!