Costa Rica Running on Renewable Energies

Wind turbines in Costa Rica
Wind turbines in Costa Rica

Costa Rica announced that it was able to run 100% on renewable energies for the first 75 days of 2015. By 2021, the country’s goal is to be totally carbon neutral. Although the goal may seem lofty, there are some environmental characteristics that are uniquely specific to Costa Rica that would enable the country to reach its goal.

Firstly, Costa Rica has a small population of 4.8 million people, most of whom live in rather simple households, consequently these households have low energy use (no fancy fridges, no clothes dryers, and no A/C units). Heavily supporting the goal of going green is it’s economy. Ecotourism and agriculture are at the top of income producing activities that Costa Rica undertakes, whereas some countries focus on high energy consumption industries, such as manufacturing. Additionally, there are the environmental conditions that are unique in Costa Rica, like the volcanoes, a high amount of sunshine, and heavy rains that enable the country to transform these naturally occurring events into energy supplies. Finally, there is a whole hearted commitment to innovation. That is, to finding new and creative solutions for energy concerns, it is a willingness to look beyond what the status quo is (not only for Costa Rica, but all nations of the world) and to find a solution that enables the country to be self reliant, for the most part.

Pirrís Hydro Electric Power Plant - The tallest  dam in Central America holds capacity for 30 million cubic meters of water
Pirrís Hydro Electric Power Plant – The tallest dam (371 feet) in Central America holds capacity for 30 million cubic meters of water

Today, more than 88% of the energy that is produced in the country comes from renewable sources, 68% of that energy is produced via hydro power. Taking into consideration climate change, that potentially there may be fewer heavy rainfalls, as well as less water masses in the years to come, the country is exposing itself to a degree of susceptibility, in the sense that it has a high reliance on one source, hydro power. Realizing this last, Costa Rica has made use of some of its best and free assets – sunshine and wind! Solar systems and wind power are also top of the list in terms of producing energy when water is not as abundant. And least not forget, as above so below, Costa Rica has dug deeper and turned to its volcanoes for further long term energy solutions. In the future we are sure to see more advancements with the use of geothermal energy systems.

Considering that the statement “running on renewable energy” does not include the transportation system, there remains a reliance on petrol and more room for improvement. Perhaps in future years, the groundwork will have been made for the country to also undertake a change in its transportation systems. Due to the terrain, train systems are inexistent, and so a creative solution remains to be sought for this last domain.