Clean Power

Published on February 4th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor


How 11 Countries Are Leading The Shift To Renewable Energy

February 4th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Climate Reality Project.

Who’s embracing wind? Solar? Geothermal? These countries could provide blueprints for the worldwide shift to renewable energy.

This December, almost 200 countries from every corner of the world signed the Paris Agreement, committing to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and – dare we say – save the world!The question on everyone’s mind: How?

The truth is, we don’t have to wait on scientists to invent some newfangled contraption. The solutions are already here! We simply need to ramp up renewable energy generation, and fast.

Here’s how: follow the leader. There are many countries already forging ahead towards a low-carbon future. Whether solar is starting to shine or the answer is blowing in the wind, the solutions are growing every day. But don’t take our word for it. Read on to learn how places around the globe are going renewable.

1. Sweden


In 2015, Sweden threw down the gauntlet with an ambitious goal: eliminating fossil fuel usage within its borders, and immediately ramping up investment in solar, wind, energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport. And the best part? The Swedes are challenging everyone else to join them in a race to become the first 100-percent renewable countries. Now that’s a competition where everyone wins.

2. Costa Rica


Thanks to its unique geography and commitment to environmental preservation, small but mighty Costa Rica meets a huge amount of its energy needs using hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, and other low-carbon sources. Next on the horizon: Costa Rica aims to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2021.

3. Nicaragua

Not to be outdone by its Tico neighbors, Nicaragua saw renewables comprise up to 54 percent of all electricity production in June 2015. How’d Nicaragua do it? In 2007, the then-president began emphasizing renewable energy investments. By 2012, Nicaragua invested the fifth-highest percentage worldwide of its GDP in developing renewable energy. Next on the to-do list: The country is aiming for 90-percent renewable energy by 2020, with the majority of energy coming from wind, solar, and geothermal sources.

4. Scotland


Great Scot! The answer to Scotland’s energy needs is blowing in the wind. In 2015, wind power produced the equivalent of 97 percent of the country’s household electricity needs.

5. Germany


Germany set the trend when it comes to renewable energy. It leads the world in solar PV capacity and has even been able to meet as much of 78 percent of a day’s electricity demand from renewables. For a relatively cloudy country of over 80 million people, Germany is looking forward to a seriously bright future for solar energy!

6. Uruguay


Going renewable doesn’t have to take a lot of time and generous subsidies. Uruguay is now 95-percent powered by renewables after less than 10 years of concerted effort. The country invested heavily in wind and solar with no subsidies or increases in consumer costs. The secret? “Clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment, and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.

7. Denmark


Denmark got 42 percent of its electricity from wind turbines in 2015, and that’s not just a bunch of hot air. Even with two wind farms offline, that’s the highest percent of wind power ever achieved worldwide. The country aims to be 100-percent fossil-fuel-free by 2050, and these strong winds at its back will help push Denmark to that goal.

8. China


Wondering how the world’s largest carbon emitter can also be a leader in renewable energy? It may seem counter-intuitive, but in 2014 China had the most installed wind energy capacity – by a longshot – and the second-highest installed solar PV capacity. China has also committed to phasing out coal and cleaning up its polluted air.

9. Morocco


With ample sun, Morocco decided to go big. Bigger than anyone else in the world, in fact. The largest concentrated solar plant on earth recently opened its first phase in Morocco. With its accompanying wind and hydro plants, the mega-project will provide half of Morocco’s electricity by 2020.

10. The United States of America


In the US, a new solar energy system was installed every two minutes and 30 seconds in 2014, earning the US fifth place on the installed solar PV capacity global rankings (see: Germany). America also has the second-highest installed wind energy capacity in the world (see: China). Unfortunately, the energy demand in the States far outpaces the renewable capacity. Renewables only accounted for about 13 percent of the country’s electricity generation as of 2014. That said, a new NOAA study estimates that America could reduce emissions by nearly 80 percent in just 15 years without impacting consumer electricity costs by using more renewables. So there’s still #ClimateHope for the US to make the switch. Join Climate Reality if you want to help make that happen.

11. Kenya


Kenya believe it? This country is looking to geothermal energy to power its future and reduce reliance on costly electricity imports. As of 2015, geothermal accounted for 51 percent of Kenya’s energy mix – up from only 13 percent in 2010. Kenya’s also betting big on wind, with Africa’s largest wind farm (310 MW) set to provide another 20 percent of the country’s installed electricity generating capacity. Those two combined will help Kenya generate 71 percent of its electricity with renewables.

See Any Trends?

One common theme among all these success stories is that when leaders actively set ambitious goals for renewable energy generation and support them with investments, growth comes fast. The second lesson: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to making the switch. Some countries, like Kenya, have ample geothermal and can ramp up fast. Others, like Denmark, have been steadily improving their wind power generation for decades. Still others, like Morocco, are betting big on solar while planning for backup from other renewables.

Reprinted with permission.

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  • lucky juck

    Power full site thank you for providing.

  • jonbohmer

    Norway should be No. 1 on this list. It has been 100% renewable since the start of electrification 100 years ago, and is leading the electrification of transport by a country mile. We buy a third of all EVs in Europe… Sweden wants to become what Norway already is.

  • kamil

    Sweden use a lot of fossil fuel and the state own coal power plants in the country and a lot of
    coal in northern Europe. Very far from beeing leading when it comes to climate change. The list number one is a joke!

  • Victor Provenzano

    Forgive me but the entire presentation in this article seems to be ecologically naive.
    The electrical grids of tropical Southern Hemisphere nations, such as Costa Rica, that are now nominally close to using energy that is 100% “renewably sourced” are not even minimally close to using energy that is 100% “sustainably sourced.” For most of their energy needs, these electrical grids are now relying on tropical hydropower, which, according to recent studies, has higher net life cycle carbon emissions per kWh than coal because of the immense amount of methane that is emitted in a tropical climate by the reservoirs of hydroelectric dams. The GWP of this methane must then be added to the GWP of the carbon emissions that derive from the building of the dam, the making of its materials (steel and cement) as well as the transport of its materials. Thus, having a “renewable” grid in the Southern Hemisphere does not automatically mean that one has created a “sustainable” grid.

    Like many of the European countries, nations such as Sweden, are using a combination of wood biomass and biomass from their waste streams to generate some of their “renewable” electricity. At present, however, in almost all instances, burning wood biomass as a combustion fuel consists in willfully and irresponsibly choosing to emit many decades—-or more than a century—-of stored carbon into the air. “Renewable” energy, once again, is neither automatically nor qualitatively the same thing as “sustainable” energy.

    First of all, we need to maintain the earth’s land-based carbon sinks and thus all wood needs to be harvested sustainably. In boreal forests, such as those in Sweden, one can only harvest 1.5% of the trees in a forest each year if one wants to preserve the forest’s soil as well as its biodiversity. In order to ensure that the
    carbon that has been stored for decades or centuries within the tree’s wood remains stored—-in short, in order to DECARBONIZE our economies—-wood that
    has already been harvested should be either (a) reused as is, (b) repurposed, or (c) made into a composite wood product.

    Sweden also uses the organic matter from its waste stream as a combustion fuel. Like wood biomass, this, too, is an unsustainable practice. All the food and plant
    waste in one’s waste stream should be used to restore the soil on farms or in woodlands. Preferably, at some point in the future, food and plant waste will be biocharred anoxically so that the carbon in the biochar can then be stored in the soil for centuries. The paper in our current waste stream should be recycled, not burned as fuel. The cloth in the current waste stream should be reused as is, repurposed or made into a composite cloth, not burned at a local power plant. The rubber in the waste stream should also be recycled, not used as fuel. Etc.

    • Jim Beaty

      Excellent points. Far too much credit is given hydroelectric sources of energy. It is far from clean when one considers negative impact on the environment. Methane gas is 20x more harmful than carbon as a greenhouse gas. Then take into consideration social upheavals involved in relocating riverine populations, loss of livelihoods, release of heavy metals, reversal of hydrologic cycles, evaporation impacts on local climate extremes, loss of riparian vegetation etc. the list goes on and on. Thermal generation from wood pellets is also problematic. One of the fastest growing industries in the usa is

  • onesecond

    Scotland would be way better off being independent from the rest of the UK

    • Well, currently the UK is a handy grid balancing resource.

      • onesecond

        That would remain so, as there is a lot of electricity trade across European borders. The politicians in the UK only care about greater London and don’t take care of the development of any other region at all.

  • newnodm

    Sweden is not 100% renewable with its choice to rebuild its aging nuclear power capability.

    • Right. 100% fossil free/low carbon. That’s OK, that does the job.

      • kamil

        What about coal dosent it count as fossil? Sweden has coal, natural gas and oil plants. Not so fossil free…

        • No way

          Sure. Less than two procent of the electricity comes from fossil fuels. Only 98-99% fossil free.

          In total energy it’s less than 2% natural gas and less than 3,5% coal, which is almost all used in the steel industry.

          But if you’re looking for coal, natural gas and oil plants then you have to look pretty hard, those exist but are very rare and can be counted on your fingers.
          Not that those shouldn’t close or change to fossil free, which they are. All of them have plans to be fossil free within the near future (next 4 years, except possible Värtaverket) including the effect reserve.

          The big problem to attack is oil, which is at ~24% of the total energy. It’s almost exclusively used in the transport sector.
          And in the transport sector road transportation and more specifically cars are ~75% of that.

          That is where the real work to be done is and the area to solve if Sweden should be able to be (almost) fossil free by 2030 as the goal and target is.
          It shouldn’t be that hard though, EVs and biofuels will easily cover that as long as the government sets up clear rules and a firm strategy.

    • No way

      No country is 100% renewable. Sweden is one of the few that are remotely close an at least halfway there.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Several countries have 100% or close to 100% renewable energy grids. Hydro is a major player at this point. Wind and solar are recent additions.

        Albania (100% hydro in 2008).

        Angola (96.45% hydro in 2008)

        Austria (73.86% renewable in 2009, 12.5% of that non hydro)

        Belize (90.91% hydro in 2008) Update: REEGLE says only about 80%.

        Bhutan (99.86% hydro in 2008)

        Brazil (88.88% renewable with 4.93 non hydro in 2009)

        Burundi (100% hydro in 2008)

        Cameroon (77.31% hydro in 2008)

        Canada (61.95% renewable, with 1.86% non hydro in 2009)

        Central African Republic (81.25% renewable in 2008)

        Columbia (85.67% hydro in 2008)

        Congo (82.22% renewable in 2008)

        Costa Rica (93.11% renewable in 2008)

        DPR Korea (61.86% hydro in 2008)

        DR Congo (99.46% hydro in 2008)

        Ecuador (64.12% renewable in 2008, with 2.21% non hydro)

        El Salvador (62.24% renewable in 2008, with 26.92 non hydro)

        Ethiopia (88.17% renewable in 2008, with 0.27% non hydro)

        Fiji (68.04% renewable in 2008)

        Georgia (85.52% hydro in 2008)

        Ghana (75.03% hydro in 2008)

        Guatemala (61.31% renewable, with 17.5 non hydro in 2008)

        Iceland (100% renewable, with 26.27% geothermal in 2009).

        Kenya (62.59% renewable, with 21.06% non hydro in 2008)

        Kyrgyzstan (90.85% hydro in 2008)

        Lao PDR (92.46% hydro in 2008)

        Latvia (62.23% renewable with 1.96% non hydro in 2008)

        Lesotho (100% hydro in 2008)

        Madagascar (66.67% hydro in 2008)

        Malawi (86.31% hydro in 2008)

        Mozambique (99.87% hydro in 2008)

        Myanmar (62.05% hydro in 2008)

        Namibia (70.91% hydro in 2008)

        Nepal (99.67% hydro in 2008)

        New Zealand (72.52% renewable, including 15.42% non hydro in 2009)

        Norway (97.11% renewable, including 0.93% non hydro in 2009)

        Paraguay (100.00% hydro in 2008), exporting 90% of generated electricity (54.91 TWh in 2008)

        Peru (60.53% renewable, including 1.47% non hydro in 2008)

        Sweden (60.42% renewable, including 10.58% non hydro in 2009)

        Tajikistan (98.25% hydro in 2008)

        Tanzania (61.45% hydro in 2008)

        Uganda (74.77% hydro in 2008)

        Uruguay (61.98% renewable, with 9.33 non hydro in 2008)

        Venezuela (69.57% hydro in 2008)

        Zambia (99.69% hydro in 2008)

        • No way

          That’s good for the grids that so many are non-fossil. But I was talking about total energy. And even though we are going in the right direction not many countries are even halfway there (having more than 50% non-fossil energy).
          Those countries can be counted on your fingers (well at least developed countries, I haven’t seen much stats on the poorest countries).

          Electricity is just a part of it, we have a long way to go and we need to go there faster.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s true. There’s more than just electricity.

            I’d like to see this list updated, most of the data is 2008. But what I find most interesting about it is the large amount of hydro several countries have. That means that it should be easy for them to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar because they already have the “fill-in” covered.

            We’re not going to see transportation switching to renewables for a few more years. Affordable EVs have to come first. And more people have to learn about how efficient and affordable heat pumps have become.

          • No way

            It would be nice with new numbers. Also with non-fossil percentage of total energy (or maybe the other way around with the fossil percentage, more of a list of shame).

            It’s surprising how little new and world covering statistics there are considering how big and important this matter is and have become to countries and world leaders.

            Even the eurostats have fairly recently been updated to cover 2013 when all european countries have 2014 numbers ready and most have 2015 numbers ready or preliminary ready at least.

  • JamesWimberley

    The OP misses out Bhutan, even smaller than Costa Rica but already carbon-positive, with hydro electricity plus reafforestation. Bhutan rejects maximising per capita GDP as its goal, and uses a happiness indicator instead.

    Germany has now (end 2015) been overtaken by China in total solar PV installation, since it has cut the annual addition to around 1.3 GW , while the Chinese addition is 15 or 17 or 23 GW, depending on this week’s target.

    Scotland: the journalist’s “houses’ unit again, useless at the best of times and especially so in a league table.

    • jeffhre

      Then add Brazil, Chile, Paraguay. Followed by Canada, if oil prices stay low.

  • Martin

    Interestingly, 5 out of the 11 are called “developing” countries.
    Now were are all the other developed countries?

    • xoussef

      Developed countries already have their systems set up and capital tied in conventional generation capacity with no room to grow. Changing that is painful. Most developing countries by definitions are still building and adding capacity, so they can more easily switch over to the latest technology

      • Calamity_Jean

        Yeah, it’s a lot easier to bring in new stuff when you don’t need to throw old stuff out to make room.

  • Ross

    Adjusted for population and solar insolation levels the United States would need over 200GW to match Germany achievement.

  • No way

    And here I thought Scotland voted no to become independent from the UK.

    • rustybeancake

      It did. But just because it’s part of a union, doesn’t mean it’s not still a country in its own right. The Scottish government is far more supportive of clean energy than the UK government.

      • No way

        There are lots of regions in countries with semi-autonomous governments. It’s a “country” in the same way as other countries (sovereign states) can have fairly independent states like the US or like the bundesländer in Germany.

        Then we could add California, Bavaria or why not the Basque region of Spain to the list. So even if the region of Scotland has done the job it would be the sovereign state of UK that should be on the list.

        • Otis11

          And don’t forget Texas – wind energy is huge there.

        • Cuppatea

          No, a country is a country if it has it’s own national football team. Scotland has a national football team, Bavaria has not.

          • No way

            Haha… that’s a good one. Thank you for bringing some humor. =)

          • jeffhre

            Texas is convinced that it indeed does.

          • Matt

            Does the football team have to be good?

        • Roger

          There is a level of miss reporting (which is hinted at when it says ‘equivalent’) as while the equipment is installed in Scotland its cost via support payments is pay for by everyone in the UK. Also the resulting power is used across the UK. The result is that Scotland does not get 97% of its electricity from wind power, overall the UK (including Scotland) get about 11% of its power from wind.

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