This past month Costa Rica broke their own 2015 record of 299 days using only renewable energy for electricity: this year, they went 300 days. Known for decades now for their sustainability goals and eco-friendly legislature, Costa Rica is an exceptionally green country. The eradication of the country’s military in 1948 freed up huge portions of the nation’s budget, money which is now invested in social programs and renewable energies.
The small country of roughly 5 million people is nestled between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America and generates the majority of its energy for electricity from hydropower: up to 78% of it comes from dams on the nation’s many rivers and waterways. Costa Rica’s rivers are fed by the high levels of rainfall that it receives – it comes up as the fourth highest nation in terms of rainfall per capita. Wind and geothermal make up another 10% each, while biomass and solar power bring up the rear at only 1%.
The 300-day record of renewable energy included 201 consecutive days beginning on May 1 of this year, reported the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity. However, the record only refers to powering electricity needs – it does not incorporate gas usage for vehicles, heating, or other purposes. Dr. Monica Araya, Costa Rican clean development adviser, said that while the 300-day achievement is fantastic, “It hides a paradox, which is that nearly 70 percent of all our energy consumption is oil.”
While the ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for coal and natural gas, Costa Rica (along with the rest of the world) isn’t quite there yet. Nonetheless, Costa Rica is a model for what commitment to renewable energy looks like. The United States, on the other hand, continues to bolster the fossil fuels industry, investing in both coal and natural gas. But don’t lose hope! According to The Independent, in 2016 the U.S. relied on renewable energy for about 15 percent of the nation’s energy consumption, and in 2017, renewable energy rose to make up 18 percent of the US’s energy sources.