Does Costa Rica Have the Best Electricity Model?

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Renewable energy projects, including the Reventazón hydroelectric plant, have powered Costa Rica’s electric grid. // File Photo: Costa Rican Government.

As of Sept. 7, Costa Rica’s electric grid had been powered exclusively by renewable energy sources for 150 days this year and counting, the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity said. Last month, just over 80 percent of the country’s electricity came from hydropower, with geothermal power contributing almost 13 percent, the agency added. What policies have allowed Costa Rica to successfully power its grid with renewable energy sources? How environmentally friendly are the means through which Costa Rica is obtaining the energy, relative to other new technologies becoming available? What can other Latin American and Caribbean countries do to adopt or improve upon Costa Rica’s renewable energy model?

Ottón Solís, economist and member of Costa Rica’s Congress: “In 1949, Costa Rica nationalized energy production. Public-sector ownership allowed for a developmental and not a profit-seeking rationale regarding electricity production and distribution. It also allowed for long-term planning and rigorous research on local sources of energy. Those conditions, plus the country’s historical commitment to environmental sustainability, set the groundwork for shifting the energy matrix toward renewable sources. Out of total energy demand, electricity represents 35 percent, while transport accounts for 65 percent of the demand. Petroleum fully accounts for the latter. Costa Rica is implementing policies to take advantage of technological advances on electric batteries, so our energy model will increasingly become even more reliant on renewable sources. Concerning electricity generation, in the last quarter hydro accounted for 80 percent of total supply, geothermal 13 percent, wind 6 percent, biomass 0.09 percent and solar 0.02 percent. Recent regulations will…”

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