In 2004, almost 47% of Costa Rica’s energy came from renewable sources. Today, Costa Rica has gone 113 days using only renewable energy for electricity.

This means the country has not had to burn fossil fuels for any of its electrical energy production.

Although much longer in the making, the implementation of a country-wide renewable energy strategy in Costa Rica were initially put in place with the forming Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) in 1995. The idea of combining the governmental divisions of environment and energy was a pro-active move by the government of Costa Rica recognizing its responsibility in preserving its bio-rich uniqueness.

Twenty years later in 2015, Costa Rica is realizing its goals by having facilitated the construction of a dozen hydroelectric power plants, as well as developing geothermal plants making it self-sufficient in (almost) all energy needs, except oil for transportation.

Transportation in Costa Rica:

Costa Rica uses an estimated 10.14 barrels per day per 1,000 people, with nearly 100% of transportation in Costa Rica using petroleum – diesel being the most popular fuel. With the fastest growing middle class in Central America, vehicle ownership is on the rise with over one million vehicles now on the road, this number is expected to double by 2021. The vehicle fleet in Costa Rica is also is much older, with over one-third of passenger vehicles running on diesel.

Is Costa Rica’s renewable energy model sustainable?

Hydroelectricity, Costa Rica’s first line of renewable development, is solely dependent on rain fall. While the biggest potential impact on future rainfall could be Climate Change, Costa Rica is actively exploring and developing its next most important energy asset – geothermal energy.

According to the International Geothermal Association, Costa Rica is the 7th largest producer of geothermal electricity in the world, out of 25 producing countries. Approximately 13% of Costa Rica’s energy comes from geothermal production as of 2014.

Costa Rica’s geothermic plan started in 1976 using scientific data to select Costa Rica’s best locations for development of a geothermal plant. The first development was the Miravalles Geothermal Field, which has a water-dominated reservoir that is penetrated by 33 production wells, reaching average water temperatures of 240 °C.

Today two new geothermal fields are currently under development, both within the Rincón de la Vieja volcanic complex northwest of Miravalles.

Costa Rica has abundant untapped volcanic geothermal resources available. The energy is harnessed by drawing hot water and steam from within the Earth’s crust, and then cooling it to move power-turbines. A primary advantage of geothermal power is that it is continuously generated, it’s always there, and not at all dependent on climatic conditions.

With over 100 volcanic “edifices” or hotspots, volcanoes, cinder cones, and hot springs currently recognized in Costa Rica, geothermal will play a critical role Costa Rica’s sustainable renewable energy mix.

Is Costa Rica’s Carbon Neutrality Goal by 2021 Attainable?

President Oscar Arias Sánchez first formulated this ambitious objective in 2007 stating, “By the year 2021, Costa Rica‘s 200th birthday, we will be a carbon-neutral country.”

Then the initiative moved forward with Costa Rican President, Laura Chinchilla (2010 –2014), who signed a decree launching the developing world’s first carbon trading program, called BanCO2, as part of its strategy to be carbon-neutral by 2021. BanCO2 implemented a program called the “Costa Rican Voluntary Domestic Carbon Market,” whereby carbon credits are be issued and traded between local companies to compensate for emissions they can’t reduce.

Although Costa Rica is making great strides in its Eco-initiatives, carbon emissions from fossil fuels will be a difficult hurdle.

According to the study by NEEDS, total CO2 gas emissions in Costa Rica would reach 7,770 kt (Kilotonne) by 2021. In the previous report on Carbon Neutrality in Costa Rica, the estimated costs to drive these measures could amount to over $7 billion.

While Costa Rica has made great strides and accomplishments and is continuously engaged in new renewable infrastructure building, its ongoing middle-class growth and increasing industrial development, means an ever increasing demand for fossil fuels, its carbon-neutral goal by 2021 will be a difficult task.

The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
San Jose, Costa Rica

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