You probably didn’t think it was possible, but it’s true.  For 75 days straight in 2015, Costa Rica ran on 100% renewable energy, and then did it again this year for 76 days straight.

But that isn’t the only thing they’re doing in this field. Costa Rica is pioneering the future of running on renewable energy, and may be the model for other countries to follow suit in the future.  By the year 2021, Costa Rica plans to be completely carbon neutral.  This isn’t far-fetched.   According to the Costa Rican Government, in 2015 Costa Rica ran on 99% renewable energy and only 1% fossil fuels.

Carbon Neutral vs 100% Renewable Energy


Before we get too deep in this, let’s have a firm understanding of the difference between what is considered ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘100% renewable.’  The definition of carbon neutrality is having a net-zero carbon footprint.  This refers to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released, with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset.  Some countries achieve this by buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference.  In other words, a country can be considered carbon neutral while still using fossil fuels by planting trees that offset the carbon, or funding conservation programs which aim to reduce the amount of carbon in the air.  A country using 100% renewable energy, however, is the process of using energy sources that will never run out.  In other words, no fossil fuels.

Leading the world in carbon neutrality

For almost 300 days, the country of Costa Rica has run on a combination of hydro-power, geothermal, wind, & solar energy.   That means the government did not burn any oil, coal, or natural gas to power the country.  No other country this size has come close to a feat like this.  For example, Portugal was recently praised in the news for running on 100% renewables for 4 days. Which is amazing in and of itself.  But also a testament to Costa Rica’s 299 days over the last 2 years.

Here’s how they did it

Costa Rica invested early in the power of renewable energy resources, and made it a priority to become environmentally sustainable.  Because of that, the country has an abundance of geothermal renewable sources that account for much of the necessary energy to make the country function successfully.   Also, Costa Rica can get a lot of rain. With consistent rainfall, their hydroelectric plants can produce a plethora of energy.  Lastly, the population is small and their workforce is not manufacturing-intensive.  Which means that their energy requirements are not as large as some countries.

The future

renewable energy
geothermal energy from volcanoes

Costa Rica has been focused on environmental sustainability from the outset, and they are working hard to keep it a priority in the future. Here’s what is in store.  Costa Rica recently approved construction of THREE 50 MW geothermal power plants, costing $954 million.  It should be recognized that this is no cheap investment, especially for a small country that is 50th in GDP.  However, the country is taking advantage of their dozen volcanoes (5 of which are active), and investing in the future by showing the world they stand for environmental sustainability.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Costa Rica is also unveiling a 305.5 MW hydroelectric plant that is set to power over half a million homes.  Which is A LOT considering there are less than 5 million people in the entire country.

Costa Rica certainly is a country firmly committed to renewable energy.

Written by:  Miles Demars-Rote