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Costa Rica Bill On Table Provides Financial Incentives To Those Adopting Electric Vehicles

A bill is now on the table in Costa Rica (and was slated for final debate on November 30) that would see various financial incentives put into place to spur plug-in electric vehicle adoption in the country — as part of a broader push to get the country’s transport sector emissions under control, and thus meet its climate goals.

A bill is now on the table in Costa Rica (and was slated for final debate on November 30) that would see various financial incentives put into place to spur plug-in electric vehicle adoption in the country — as part of a broader push to get the country’s transport sector emissions under control, and thus meet its climate goals.

As it stands, Costa Rica is actually one of the “greenest” countries in the world with regard to the power sector — renewable energy capacity is substantial and the country has actually managed to run completely on renewables for more than 300 days straight (a new world record).

PDF of those slides here

But it’s transport sector still needs a lot of work if the goals laid out by the Paris Climate Agreement are to be met. This is true of most “developing” countries, though, as the electric vehicles available currently are quite expensive by most people’s standards and supply/choice is very limited on many markets.

“We’ve kept a very clean electrical grid running. Where Costa Rica is still underperforming — and it’s typical of most developing countries — is in transport. That’s where our Achilles heel is,” explained Christiana Figueres, the former head of the UN climate secretariat and a Costa Rican by birth.

To provide precise figures here, around 64% of Costa Rica’s greenhouse gas emissions originate from energy use, and over two-thirds of the energy use emissions originate from the transport sector, according to the country’s National Meteorological Institute.

With all of that in mind, a Costa Rican national legislator by the name of Marcela Guerrero back in 2015 proposed the introduction of financial incentives (of various kinds) for people adopting plug-in electric vehicles. The idea apparently is to use indirect incentives, such as fee exemptions, reduced import taxes, free vehicle transfers, free parking, etc.. Additionally, it is proposed that these would be necessary for just 5 years, in order to get the market going.

To be clear here, though, before going further, Guerrero has also been pushing strongly to modernize the country’s public transit systems, which would also help to reduce transport sector emissions. She hasn’t just been seeking to incentivize inefficient personal car use.

“If Costa Rica does not prioritize an increase in the use of public transport, I think we’ll be very far from achieving our Paris Agreement commitments,” stated Guerrero in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Without changes to the public transit systems in the country, though, ridership will remain fairly low, owing to the great inefficiency of the systems as they are now — their convoluted natures being the primary cause for rising car ownership levels to begin with.

Speaking about the electric vehicle support bill, Guerrero commented that she thinks it’s likely that it will pass, and that it’s “an important piece of the puzzle” if greenhouse gas emissions are to be curtailed to a serious degree.

Reuters provides more: “Meanwhile, vehicle ownership is soaring in Costa Rica. According to data from the country’s National Registry, there are twice as may cars registered each year as babies born. Most are individual vehicles — no surprise, Guerrero said, when public transport remains ‘deficient.’

“The train system, for example, offers only 4 routes nationwide, with just 19 trains on the tracks — a measure, in part, of the country’s small size, according to the Costa Rican Railway Institute. Buses, in turn, have seen little in the way of modernization of routes and stops, in part because bus company owners sit on the bus regulatory board, and are reluctant to make changes that could increase operating costs, Guerrero said.

“The result is that 30% of Costa Ricans say they don’t use public transport because of its inefficiency, according to the country’s 2017 State of the Nation report. Modernizing public transport with better routes and more electric buses and trains could help lower Costa Rica’s dependency on individual vehicles and cut emissions, Guerrero said.”

To close things up here, it’s worth noting that in addition to the country’s grid being powered almost entirely by renewables, most car owners in the country (~90%) possess a garage where they could charge an electric vehicle without too much trouble/adjustment.

Costa Rica, in other words, seems to be ideally suited for a great reduction in carbon emissions via the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles. The only thing standing in the way really is the relatively high costs of most electric models out there now. Incentives would help in that regard — perhaps enough to spur an avalanche of electric vehicle adoption as some proponents seem to be hoping. Finding a way to improve the functionality of the country’s mass transit systems would seem prudent as well, though.

If you missed our last article on e-mobility in Costa Rica, be sure to check it out too:

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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