Which countries are leading the world into a future with no carbon emissions fouling up the planet? The answer might just surprise you.
SWEDEN announced in 2015 that it would eliminate fossil fuels to generate electricity within its borders by 2040. The Swedes are investing in and building out solar, wind, energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport systems to beat the band.
The Swedish people have also challenged everyone else to compete for first place in the race for 100 percent renewable energy.
Sweden is a land with few hydrocarbon reserves and a maxed-out hydroelectric grid. Additional carbonless power was originally supplied by nuclear energy plants. At the same time, oil boilers were repurposed to burn biomass – forest residues and waste.
To convince Swedes to abandon fossil fuels and embrace alternatives, the government hired “energy advisors” to educate the public about the advantages of clean energy. This tactic succeeded in making renewable energy a familiar and comforting concept in the Nordic nation.
To pay the higher costs associated with non-petroleum energy production, Sweden imposed a carbon tax in 1991 that is levied on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This made using fuel oil prohibitively expensive and helped drive the rise of renewables.
In 2003, the Swedish government established the “green certificate market” to back renewable power producers struggling with low electricity prices. For every MWh (megawatt hour) of renewable electricity Cleantech power producers generate, they receive a certificate.
Electricity suppliers that burn fossil fuels must buy these certificates. Consequently, the cost of the certificates is passed through to the power customers’ electricity bills. Swedish individuals and businesses pay for the development of green power sources.
COSTA RICA is a small country with an abundance of waterfalls and tropical rainforests that lend themselves to hydropower plants to generate electricity from free-flowing streams. The residents of Costa Rica have embraced renewables with remarkable passion and zeal, not to mention results.
In 2019, Costa Rica produced 98.84 percent of its electricity from renewables: hydro, geothermal, solar, and wind. The Central American nation has reported renewable generation above 98 percent annually since 2015. Costa Rica has targeted the end of this year (2020) to become completely carbon-neutral.
The largest Costa Rican energy producer was hydropower, representing 67.5 percent of the total production despite regional dry weather conditions. Wind power output was 17 percent, geothermal sources amounted to 13.5 percent, solar power and biomass-fired generation accounted for 0.84 percent, and the remaining 1.16 percent of electric power was generated by backup plants.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are increasingly becoming the norm on roadways to further reduce carbon emissions.
Costa Rica has almost 100 power plants run by state-owned utilities, rural cooperatives, and private operators. In July 2019, ICE (the power company operated by the Costa Rican government Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) opened the 55MW Las Pailas II geothermal power plant, the seventh such facility to create electricity from subterranean heat sources in Costa Rica.
According to ICE, over the past 20 years, Costa Ricans have saved approximately $482.4 million by not generating electricity from fossil fuels.
Costa Rica produces an energy surplus and has exported electricity since 1982. From January to August 2019, energy exports raked in about $7.2 million. Most of the excess power was produced by run-of-the-river hydropower plants (HPPs).
SCOTLAND in the United Kingdom has taken advantage of its blustery landscape and generates 98 percent of its national electricity by wind power. A 2019 report from Scottish Renewables projected that Scotland will soon produce 100 percent of its energy needs.
On April 28, 2019, as the first government in the world, top Scottish government leader Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency at the annual Scottish National Party conference:
“As First Minister of Scotland, I am declaring that there is a climate emergency. And Scotland will live up to our responsibility to tackle it.”
The Scottish government committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Wind, solar, and hydropower are currently the main sources of electricity in Scotland with a total contribution of about 75 percent of all generation. Huge cost reductions for new onshore wind and solar projects in recent years have made these renewables the cheapest source of electricity of any kind.
In July 2019, Prince Charles opened the world’s largest offshore floating wind farm in Scotland. The Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm is located about eight miles off the coast of Wick in the far north of the country and can generate enough energy to power 450,000 homes.
The record-setting project involves 84 huge turbines that came online fully in May, achieving 588MW of electricity output. The electricity generated by Beatrice is transported over undersea and underground cables before coming ashore near Keith in Moray and connecting to the Blackhillock substation.
The race is on among environmentally-conscious countries to zero-out carbon emissions in very short order. Do you live in a contender nation?