Costa Rica breaks its own record for 100 per cent renewable electricity

By Arman Kazemi

August 27, 2015

Between May 8 and Aug. 9, Costa Rica achieved 100 per cent renewable electricity generation.

According to the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), the Central American country sustained 94 consecutive days without fossil-fuel electricity, supported instead by the country’s clean energy infrastructure.

Hydro power accounted for 78 per cent of this generation, according to the institute. Geothermal and wind power provided 12 and 10 per cent of the electricity, respectively, with a small amount generated by solar power.

That run came to an end when, on Aug. 10, fossil fuels were used to make up a one per cent shortfall in Costa Rica’s electricity supply. In spite of this, renewables have made up 93 per cent of the country’s electricity supply so far in 2015. Costa Rica already set a record of 75 straight days of 100 per cent renewable electricity in the early months of this year.  

In 2007, Costa Rica committed itself to becoming carbon neutral by 2021. It’s one of a select group of countries with rich renewable capital that have made the pledge. That group includes Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and the Maldives.

“We know that we are not as big as other developing countries,” Monica Araya, founder and director of the urban development think tank Costa Rica Limpia, told Fusion. “But the point is to show that it’s doable.”

While hydro makes up a vast proportion of the country’s energy supply – upwards of four-fifths, according to ICE – drought conditions in recent years have called into question the viability of this source as a long-term counterbalance to a carbonized energy grid.

As a result, Costa Rica has shifted focus to other renewable assets, mainly wind and geothermal, to diversify its electricity supply.

As previously reported by Clean Capital, a report from Sustainable Canada Dialogues suggests that Canada too could fulfill its electricity demand using completely renewable resources by 2035 if it leveraged its natural resources.

Up to 63 per cent of Canada’s electricity is already supplied through hydro, thanks to prominent operations in British Columbia and Quebec, according to Natural Resources Canada.

Yet Canada still falls short when it comes to balancing its grid with alternatives to fossil fuels, which make up a significant part of the energy profile in provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan. As recently as last month, it was suggested that Alberta could go a long way to meeting its new clean energy goals under Rachel Notley’s NDP government by making a decisive turn towards geothermal.

And with zero of the country’s reported 5,000 megawatts of geothermal potential currently exploited, Canada could begin looking southward for an example of how to move forward.

“Use us as an experiment, as a lab,” Costa Rica Limpia’s Araya said of her country’s clean energy initiatives. “That is how I see it.”



Photo Credit: Environmental Change and Security Program