By Jenny Tan
December 10, 2015
The South American nation of Uruguay is now generating 95 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources.
According to Ramón Méndez, head of Uruguay’s climate change policy, the country made the switch in less than 10 years with no government subsidies, no price increases for consumers, and no technological secrets. Uruguay doesn’t use nuclear power. Wind farms, biomass energy, and solar power are the country’s main sources of electricity.
Uruguay’s electricity prices relative to inflation have even dropped after the shift to renewables.
Méndez told the Guardian that Uruguay’s model is “dull” and replicable. Making the shift simply requires "clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector".
Fifty-five per cent of the country’s total energy mix, including the transport sector, now comes from clean sources.
“What we’ve learned is that renewables are just a financial business,” Méndez told the Guardian. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is very attractive.”
Uruguay has one of the most ambitious pledges of all the countries at the Paris climate talks: it promises to cut carbon emissions by 88 per cent in 2017 compared to the average for 2009-13.
Canada, too, has made progress on renewable energy development in recent years. According to a report from Clean Energy Canada, a program at Simon Fraser University, 2014 saw a large growth in Canada’s clean energy sector. Investment in Canadian clean-energy projects reached almost CAN $10.7 billion, an 88 per cent increase from 2013.
Ontario leads the country in clean energy with over half of all Canadian investment in clean energy production. Other renewable-energy leaders include Quebec, British Columbia, and Manitoba, all with over 95% of their electricity production from renewable sources.
But other provinces rely more heavily on non-renewable sources. Only 19 per cent of Alberta’s electricity comes from clean sources.
The report states that a challenge for the Canadian clean energy sector is a lack of federal leadership. Initiatives in clean energy are largely province-led.
Now, Canada could find itself looking to Uruguay as an example. “We had to go through a crisis to reach this point. We spent 15 years in a bad place,” Méndez told the Guardian. “But in 2008, we launched a long-term energy policy that covered everything … Finally, we had clarity.”