13 Countries Powered by Renewable Energy
May 10th, 2019 | By Roger Kuznia
May 10th, 2019 | By Roger Kuznia
There is a real possibility that renewable energy could become the main power source for countries that are currently responsible for 99% of the world’s global carbon emissions. In fact, the world will be powered mainly by renewable energy by 2040. But making this future a reality would take a massive effort propelled by societal and political will.
Some countries already have begun the shift to clean, renewable energy. Read more to find out which countries are out front in the renewable energy arena.
Iceland has taken advantage of its renewable natural resources to generate almost 100% of its energy. The country generates the largest amount of clean energy per person than any other country. It not only generates most of its energy from hydroelectric and geothermal power plants, but the geothermal plant at Blue Lagoon has become a tourist draw, promoting the country’s energy efficiency and independence.
For Iceland, switching to renewable energy came early. With its dependence on fossil fuels creating havoc on Iceland’s economy, the country developed a strategy to wean itself from imported fossil fuels and use its renewable resources.
Sweden, no slacker when it comes to environmental credentials, upped the ante when it ambitiously announced a goal of eliminating its use of fossil fuels completely. Then it challenged the rest of the world to try and beat it.
With an abundant supply of moving water and biomass, hydropower and bioenergy are Sweden’s main renewable energy sources. The country has increased investment in wind, solar, energy storage, smart grids and clean transport. However, it is Sweden’s investment in wind energy that has put it on track to meet its 2030 goal of 50% renewable energy usage early, and positioned it to easily meet 100% of its goal by 2040.
In 2018, a new solar panel system was installed every 100 seconds in the U.S., earning the country fourth place in world solar PV installations, per 2016 data. In addition, America has the second most installed wind energy capacity, second only to China.
Solar installations in the U.S. have continued to grow, sparked partly by the 30% investment tax credit available through the end of 2019. Overall, solar jobs have grown by 159% since 2010, adding nearly 150,000 jobs in that span.
The country may be small, but Costa Rica’s unique geography has made it a player in the race to energy independence. Its 67 volcanoes allow the country to get a large portion of the energy it requires from geothermal. It also gets energy from hydroelectric, wind, and solar investments.
The country’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2021, and it is well on its way to achieving this goal. For several years now, Costa Rica has run entirely on renewable energy for an average of 300 days per year.
Like Costa Rica, Nicaragua has volcanoes that make geothermal energy production viable. The government also has invested in solar and wind, making its ambitious goal of becoming 90% renewables-powered by 2020 an achievable goal. As a non-oil producing country, Nicaragua had been dependent on foreign oil to meet its energy needs.
When you think of solar energy, you probably don’t think of cloudy Germany as a front-runner. However, as a world leader in its commitment to renewable energy, Germany produced enough energy from renewable sources in six months to supply electricity to the country’s households for a year. Even though Germany is a cloudy country, it has set its target at an ambitious 65% of power generated from renewables, including solar, by 2030.
After almost 10 years of effort, Uruguay has reached an impressive goal with 95% of its energy coming from renewable sources. This is remarkable since as recently as 2012 the country generated a scant 40% of its energy from renewables. Thanks to a robust private-public sector partnership and a supportive regulatory environment, the country invested in solar and wind power without increasing consumer costs or subsidizing the industry.
All of these initiatives require buy-in and effort comparable to constructing the interstate highway, the Tunnel between France and England, or sending a man to the moon. But the goal is within sight and possible with existing technology. We, as a society, just need to decide that this is the path we want to follow.
The UK is no stranger to renewable energy. With significant wind power potential, the UK now has a combination of grid-connected wind farms and standalone turbines. Today, the United Kingdom generates more electricity from wind farms than from coal plants. In fact, some days, Scotland can produce enough wind power to supply 100% of Scottish households. Ireland is also becoming a strong leader of wind power, with enough to provide energy to over 1.26 million homes. Even without government funding, the UK is looking to revive its Swansea Tidal Lagoon project, creating a six-mile sea wall with turbines to generate low-carbon electricity.
Denmark has an ambitious plan to become fossil-fuel free by 2050. And, there’s no doubt that it’s making strides toward that. In 2015, Denmark broke a record by producing 42% of its electricity needs from wind power. As of today, Denmark is on track to have 50% of its electricity coming from renewable energy, primarily from wind power, by 2030.
Even though it’s the world’s largest polluter, China is also the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy – the irony. In 2018, China’s renewable power capacity rose 12 percent. By the end of 2018, the total renewable energy capacity rose to 728 gigawatts (GW). That’s about 38.3 percent of China’s total installed power capacity. China’s wind power capacity increased by 20.6 GW in 2018, while its new solar capacity reached 44.3 GW. China also completed installing 8.54 GW of hydropower capacity. All in all, it seems China is doing its best to counter its pollution.
The Moroccan government set a goal of meeting 42% of its energy requirements using renewable energy by 2020. With this goal, it has launched one of the world’s most extensive solar energy programs to create a plant that generates 2,000 megawatts (or 2 GW) of solar power. Morocco also has a wind program, which includes Africa’s largest wind farm, which will meet the power requirements of thousands of households and reduce its CO2 emissions each year by 900,000 tons.
Another country in Africa wants to take the lead in wind power production – Kenya. The Lake Turkana Wind Power project will provide the country’s electricity supply with a 13 percent increase. Approximately 70 percent of Kenya’s electricity comes from renewable sources.
India is looking for a way to effectively quit coal power for good. The India government has set the ambitious goal of reaching 175 GW of clean energy by March 2022. While it still has a long journey ahead, renewable energies accounted for 71 GW of India’s installed generating capacity in 2018. And the renewable projects are continuously increasing year over year. In 2017, for the first time, renewable installations actually surpassed those by coal power plants, pointing to a renewable future for the country.