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How has Costa Rica managed 100% renewable energy?

Costa Rica's hydropower resources are abundant.

A recent report out of Costa Rica revealed that the Central American country has been running solely on renewable energy for the past two months consecutively. This year, Costa Rica has achieved a total of 150 days in which fossil-fuels weren’t part of its energy mix. What factors have allowed this to happen, and how easy will it be to replicate this success elsewhere?

One word: Hydropower
Just over 80 percent of the energy the country generated last month was supplied by its four hydroelectric power stations. Heavy rainfall between June and August helped to provide the hydro facilities with some added ‘fuel’, contributing to their ability to meet electricity demand.

Geothermal energy provided 13 percent of Costa Rica’s energy during the 76 consecutive days of renewable power, with solar contributing just 0.01 percent.

Small surface area
As impressive at its renewable energy figures may initially seem, it’s also worth noting that Costa Rica is only 51,100 square kilometres in size — and almost one-third of this land is protected. This means that the amount of populated land with high electricity requirements is relatively limited.

Low energy economy
Costa Rica’s economy further lacks many energy-intensive industries and has a population of under 5 million, meaning its energy requirements are minimal when compared to larger and more populous countries. Last year, the country only generated about 10,713 gigawatt hours of electricity.

In short, the combination of these three factors — abundant hydropower, small land mass and low energy requirements — have allowed Costa Rica to excel in the field of renewable energy. Ultimately, nations with higher demand and more limited resources will struggle to replicate the country’s success in a similar fashion. 

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