Costa Rica’s electricity is 100% renewable – and Canada’s could be, too

By Maura Forrest

March 26, 2015

Costa Rica has achieved an impressive feat in clean energy production, generating all its electricity from renewable sources for the first 75 days of 2015.

The country’s state-owned power supplier (ICE) reported earlier this month that heavy rainfall at four hydroelectric plants provided the extra energy that kept the country running on renewables from January through mid-March.

Electricity rates in Costa Rica are down 12 per cent because of the glut of renewable energy, and ICE predicts that rates will continue to drop in the second quarter.

But Costa Rica doesn’t owe this achievement to rain alone. The country has an excellent record on clean electricity. It currently ranks second among Latin American countries for electricity and telecommunications infrastructure, behind only Uruguay. In 2014, 80 per cent of that electricity came from hydro power.

Geothermal energy also accounts for an increasing share of Costa Rica’s power. Thirteen per cent of the country’s electricity came from geothermal power in 2010. And last year, the government approved a $958-million plan to build several new geothermal plants that will generate 155 megawatts of clean energy.

Costa Rica is not the first country to reach 100 per cent renewable electricity. Since 1980, Iceland and Norway have relied almost exclusively on abundant supplies of hydroelectricity and, in Iceland’s case, geothermal power.

In comparison, 62 per cent of Canada’s electricity currently comes from renewable sources, chiefly hydroelectricity.

But a new report from Sustainable Canada Dialogues suggests that Canada could supply all its electricity with renewable and nuclear energy by 2035. To achieve that goal, the report recommends that the government put a national price on carbon, improve east-west electricity transportation between provinces, and develop untapped sources of renewable energy.

In British Columbia, geothermal energy may be one of those untapped sources. The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association recently claimed that a group of geothermal facilities could be built for less money than the province’s controversial Site C dam, and could produce the same amount of power.

“There is every possible way that geothermal can be the answer to our prayers at the present time,” said the association’s chair, Alison Thompson, in a press release. “If the B.C. government treats geothermal energy as a priority, not an afterthought, geothermal will provide firm energy beginning in 2018.”


Photo Credit: Trey Ratcliff