Since December 2014 the population of Costa Rica has relied wholly on renewable energy sources to provide their electricity; all in attempt to further their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021. Costa Rica is renowned for their very economical and environmentally friendly stance on energy consumption and electricity infrastructures. In fact the World Economic Forum ranked them second, behind Uruguay, in South America for electricity and telecommunications infrastructures as part of the 2014 Global Competitive Index.
How Did They Achieve This Goal?
Well, over the past 75 days the significantly heavy rainfall has provided enough power to four major hydroelectric plants which in turn has meant all of the state’s electricity has been sourced from the four sites. Under more usual circumstances around 80% of electricity would be sourced from these four plants and an extra 10% made up from geothermal technologies.
Just last year Costa Rican government approved $1bn to fund a geothermal project that would provide two sizeable plants. The first would produce 55 megawatts of electricity to 55,000 homes and the second would have a slightly smaller capacity of 50 megawatts and presumably would have the capability to provide electricity to around 50,000 homes.
Is this achievable elsewhere?
This question is not easily answered and there are many factors we must take into account in order to come to a true answer.
Firstly, we must recognise that Costa Rica were presumably only able to power themselves wholly off renewables for such a prolonged period of time because of the extensive rainfall. If, perhaps, all of their hydroelectric technology was replaced with solar pv technology then there may have been a different outcome. Also, Costa Rica only has a fraction of the population that, say, the U.K. do and therefore the energy demand is much less and much more achievable via renewable technology only. However, it is still an incredible triumph for the some 4 million population of Costa Rica and showcases that renewable technology is certainly worth its investment and that we are now reaching a stage where it has the capacity to meet the energy demands of a few million without comprise.
As we stated before the population of the U.K. is vastly bigger, reaching some 70 million people. As we stand today in the U.K. it is highly improbable that we could run on 100% renewable energy. However, there is no reason why in the future the U.K. couldn’t run on 100% or mostly renewable energy. With the Solar Boom in full swing, U.K. homeowners, business owners and farm owners are becoming ever more invested in solar technology and other renewable tech such as heat pumps and biomass boilers. Perhaps the best way to achieve this would be to try and run parts of the country on only renewables. For example starting with a small part of Essex and slowly building it up.
With this in mind we really do admire Costa Rica for the giant leap forward in proving the worth of renewable technology and hope one day the U.K. will do so to.