Costa Rica is a country rich with renewable energy. In fact, it gets about 99% of all its electrical energy from clean sources, and it’s aiming to be the first country to become carbon neutral (more about that below). Some of Costa Rica’s energy sources include geothermal energy, the burning of sugarcane waste and other biomass, solar and wind energy. However, the largest source of energy is hydroelectricity — its hydroelectric dams provide more than 82% of the country’s electricity.
But the electric needs of Costa Rica are increasing, and the government now wants to build new dams that would displace indigenous villages and flood valuable habitats. Local environmental groups are opposing the construction of new hydroelectric dams.
Also, Costa Rica’s efforts to minimize its own contributions to global warming have made it especially vulnerable to climate changes caused by other countries. The reason is rain. Even a tiny shift in rainfall patterns could leave the country without enough water to meet its growing demand for electricity. And scientists say climate change is likely to have a significant effect on rainfall.
But Costa Rica is working to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country (other countries vying to be first are Monaco, Norway, New Zealand and Iceland). Costa Rica wants to become carbon neutral in time to celebrate 200 years of independence in 2021, says environment and energy minister Roberto Dobles.
Wind power might come to forefront in Costa Rica — a large wind farm with 22 turbines has been working in Tilarán, Guanacaste since 2002 and more are scheduled to be installed in the mountains of Escazú and Santa Ana. A new geothermal plant, using naturally-existing superheated water to power steam turbines, is also scheduled to be producing electricity in 2010 near Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, in the province of Guanacaste.
60 thoughts on “Costa Rica Is 99% Powered By Renewable Energy”
Great Site! Always loved renewable energy! I know Coasta Rica is not as big as the other larger countries so renewable works for them.
Costa Rica has an GDP of 7% compared to us here in Australia, yet has a nearly 21% of our population. This means they have less money per person.
Renewable power is so key to this planet’s success
Costa Rica is a great example of utilizing renewable energy sources! Iceland has an interesting set up as well with their use of hydroelectric power. Lots of excellent models to work off of as we invest more in it ourselves.
Interesting how Costa Rica was able to do it while more powerful and richer countries cannot.
Costa Rica has less people with a lower GDP meaning that they use less energy due to the fact of less money to buy things that use energy.
Is coal that bad? If so, we have so much of it, I don’t see a viable alternative?
Coal will soon run out, and with all the green house gasses from coal burning i dont want to be the one affected by it.
This is amazing – I remember seeing all the wind turbines when I visited Costa Rica years ago.
what a great article on renewable energy! Thank you so much for sharing!
I’m not sure if I believe that… they must have a bunch of hamster wheels running too!
I don’t know about building more dams…but the wind energy is cool.
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Its a great goal and I hope Costa Rica will reach it. And I believe those efforts will pay off soon, when you read about rising prices for ressources like oil and gas and especially the addiction of political unstable regions of the world.
The problem with Hydro-electricity is a reduction in rain fall produces a reduction in electricity production. The problem with wind turbines is variations in ambient wind and an ugly structure for a pristine Paradise, maybe we can cammofladge it? The trouble with household and agriculture biomass is the landfills are reaching maximum volumes and burning raw materials produces multiple air pollutants, we have addressed that too. A mix of the three systems can result in a positive reduction of all air pollutants and a reduction in utility costs nation wide!!
M. Lee Miller, President BMS Inc.
Yeah more hydro, and it doesn’t need to be all large scale. Several small scale projects could produce electricity. Without a huge change in one landscape. Ponds or small lakes for fish and wildlife, swimming and recreation. First country with a clean excess supply of power wins. Nicaragua is catching up fast with its wind turbine fields. Geothermal seems like it could also be the key, if it has no great adverse effects. Pura Vida!!
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Welcome Scott to Costa Rica as we Ticos say : PURA VIDA!, we need people like you to make this a cluster of sustainable development, anyway and in any case you have a company here to help me out http://www.greenpluscr.com , ok, Scott again, welcome and yes!, United We Stand!,, the best from San Jose.
I am a Sustainable Engineering in Santa Fe NM and San Diego.
I plan to move to CR and continue to make differences and sustainable improvements in all areas. Who wants to join me?
I want to become a Green Tico.
How much does Costa Rica tax meat/dairy? How many Costa Ricans are vegan?
I’m asking because…
Scientists at the United Nations have determined that vehicles (and thus, likely your electricity too) actually makes LESS difference (in greenhouse gases) than what you put in your belly. It’s described here:
…not only that, but a luxury-tax on meat should reduce the 10%-of-GDP that CR spends on healthcare. It’s just more efficient, environmentally & economically.
regarding the idea that food gives more emissions of greenhouse gases than electricity, I must comment that I just returned from a six week stay in mid-Birri, near the chicharrones bar…the point, is that around that area and althroughout barrio jesus, the cattle roam the streets freely on many various occasions, sustainably eating random areas-rather than the unsustainable ‘single closed-off plot of land’ theory. Yes they give some gasses from their bellies, and such, but from what I have seen personally there is a more demanding issue at hand for such a small country: smog emissions. Because there is no army, and the police stay in the larger cities, there is no one to enforce strict smog standards-which most cars and vehicles would never pass.
There were many times when I had to breath through a shirt for ten or more minutes because trucks and buses passed by with black fog emanating from their exhaust pipes.
Your Barrio Jesus example is no different than the USA’s cattle (much of the worldwide herd, on which the United Nations based their finding that all the cars in the world aren’t as bad as the inefficiency of “feeding cattle vegetation then eating the cattle” (instead of “eating the vegetation directly”)); there is no “single closed-off plot of land theory” being used by the UN to generate their numbers, and the reality is that the cattle roam the USA’s sizable publicly-owned lands, it’s legal.
I’d certainly agree smog enforcement is need… but I’d address it a bit differently than you; let’s look at “the big picture”:
1. AAAS (world’s largest group of scientists, not some veg activist group) says that less petrol is burned if you eat less or no meat (so long as the crops used to feed the cattle use post-1920’s mechanized technology like combines, which is nearly the whole world) …so that helps your goal of LESS SMOG EMISSIONS. 🙂 But it gets better:
2. Smog enforcement –and much more– can be funded by the _economic_ efficiency of eating less meat; the primary source saying meat production is _economically_ inefficient (not just freshwater, petrol, and other enviro concerns) is also published by AAAS. Sorry, as an enviro engineer myself who’s able to parse their data, I’ll take AAAS scientists’ observations over your observation of Barrio Jesus; e.g. you also might not be considering that the small group of cattle you saw is _able_ to eat the given amount of vegetation near Barrio Jesus sustainably (i.e. so that it grows back), but only because there’s a much larger group of cattle eating another area –in Brazil, for example (then CR imports the meat)– and they’re eating so intensively that Brazil is burning their jungles to make way for more grazing lands (and farmlands, farmlands to feed the cattle, which takes several times more farmland per-eater-of-meat than per-vegan).
In other words “We need to spend more money on smog enforcement programs first” is a Red Herring. Change is needed to prevent both acid rain _and_ greenhouse gases (and I’ve seen climatologists who are former AGW-sceptics from MIT, and full-time-AGW-hysterics, alike, agree that greenhouse gases need reduction, but as for how much, more research is needed).
Sorry, just realized I wrote that very hastily tonight; if anything is unclear, just ask but gotta go for now. 🙂
Your point is very well built, and I must apologize for sounding like a skeptic of your clearly well-endowed idea–I, myself, am semi-vegetarian (fully if you consider what the pope says to be true) because I dont eat meat from cows, pigs, or birds… I eat fish and veggies (with some dairy-not a lot because Im lactose intolerant) and a huge amount of garden fruits.–But back to the point. What you say is incredibly true, and bodes well for us all to know that there are folks like yourself who argue this on Earths’ behalf; but as an enviro-psychologist, I must point out the vast majority of people in small towns and rural zones of the Earth (which country you choose wont matter, for they are in every one of them) you will find more people who see the meat industry as a profitable business and wont allow you to simply take that away from them. They see it as their “god-given right” if you will, and-like manifest destiny in the early United States colonialist period-believe in it enough to fight any aggression towards their belief. Think of it this way: if you told someone living in a rural/incredibly poor zone of southern Africa, that they could no longer reproduce due to global overpopulation causing rifts in the ecological serenity of many (if not all) species on the planet (like what is really happening) as well as diminishing resources caused by a large jump in human populations, then they would disregard all that you say and then go on to ignore you forevermore because you had insulted their way of living.
So what you say is true (undeniably and unmistakably) but as a semi-vegetarian psychologist and biologist living on the coast of California, I must point out the fact that a hard head and fists-held-high for your own way of dealing with the problem cannot help anymore than any other side. Yes, meat production is bad, but why would we need more if not for more people? Yes, smog is bad, but wouldn’t it be irrelevant if only six cars out of every ten thousand were “gross polluters”? Also, if you think about it, all usage of electricity is bad (like the fact that you are on a computer that is most likely run by electricity made from burning coal or damming up a river-which both have adverse side effects on the health of our planet, such as CO2 emissions and resource usage-you are also causing the world harm… and are you willing to give up electricity?? Probably not. So good luck telling some Brazillian farmer that he/she cannot run their meat farm any longer. Inasmuch, good luck telling the south african mother to stop making more humans, or even telling the average human being to stop eating meat altogether.
So rather than leading with an iron fist and pitiful assumptions that all others that you speak to eat red meat, lead with a gentle voice and firm facts that cannot be shown up.
It doesn’t matter how much education you have, what matters is how you use it.
Having thought about it for about five years now, I am about 85% convinced I will be permenantly moving to Costa Rica from Southern CA in the near future. I love the people and the culture, and I think I have abilities as an architect and builder which can contribute to the wellbeing of the people where here in California, it is a huge financial and bueracratic risk to develop any project even when the economy is going strong.
However a couple of issues regarding this thread… Costa Rica has no army, true, but if they were attacked from outside forces which is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities considering the instablity of it’s neighbors, almost everyone knows the United States and/or China would come to their aid. So I am not sure how many accolades should be attributed to this aspect of the country.
In regards to energy and environmentalism, it is wonderful Costa Rica has taken proactive measures while it still can… while it still has environment to preserve. Personally I hope to contribute to that in some way on a grander scale than a compost pit in my back yard, perhaps a decent sized private eco-preserve. The last time I visted CR I saw quite a few methane generators which would be unheard of here in California. In regards to hydro-electric causing more damage to the environment than it is worth, that’s mostly garbage from people who have not considered an underwater environment as being a contribution. Just because you cannot see it, doesn’t mean it is barren of life.
To the expat Canadian who thinks San Jose is a third world capital city… are you guys ever happy anywhere? Seriously you base your judgement on whether your neighbors understand what a compost pit is? Something tells me they wont miss you if you decide to move back to Canada.
Well. let’s see , Costa Rica has no Army, It has education and free medical services for all Ticos, it’s 28%! of its territory is protected, yes we still have a big way to go!, and we will continue to be more sustainable every day, is a process, but instead of confronting and making bad remarks of a country like this (and yes we are nor develop or developing country at least as many others developed or have a miss understanding of what was growth) everyone should be propousing more solutions, it is a small country with many gaps and lack of consistency on sustainable issues, how ever , we Ticos are proud of what we have acomplish so far , in peace , and some more armony, YES,, the potencial is there an huge but ,, belive me we know is there and we are working towards a more sustainable path. It will be interesting to make an comparative analyis , the experts scored high this country, UN, WB,etc, how ever, we really dont care ,,is not a competition, is jus a matter of values and principals that some, should say most of us (Ticos) have.
It bothers me that Costa Rica is internationally known as a Eco Paradise, and now this. I am a Canadian that has 7 yrs in CR. We have twice weekly garbage collection, no recycling, and my wife’s friends asked me why I would want rotting vegetables on the yard when I made a compost pile. As far as energy production, the gov’t recently bought gas generators (gasoline, not even diesel) to deal with the dry season low lake levels. San Jose is a third world capital city that stinks. Where the Ticos are smart is their marketing. That is it.
Let´s make it simple, if you are not happy in Costa Rica, go back to Canada inmediately, try to be smart.
Why are we squabbling? We need to focus on issues at hand.
I believe right there at the top next to the title it says that the article was written by “Justin”.
“Do some research and find some facts”? Briana, maybe if you used your brain it would be better than reading someone else’s facts. Energy consumption is not the same as electrical consumption. Previous comment made that clear. The article was mistitled. Are you the one who titled it, or else why else are you so defensive? Just change the title of the article and get over it. The article itself is good and clear. Do some research on “getting over it” and just change the title, and get over it.
Actually, Costa Rica is powered by over 95% sustainable energy….Cars have nothing to do with this. Hydroelectric makes up for about 90%, Geothermal energy about 5%, and wind power about 3%. Do some research and find the facts.
The title of the article is a flat-out lie: Costa Rica’s electricity may be mostly produced by renewables, but there are also a lot of cars on the roads burning oil. Nevertheless, Costa Rica has done well to make good use of the natural resource of abundant rainfall and large elevation changes.
The article title is not a lie. When it says powered it refers to electricity only. Not ground/air transportation.
Air travel has become a major part of our society, with industries and individuals depending on air transport for their livelihood. But have you ever wondered what happens to the artifacts of our airborne culture when they’re no longer needed? [url=http://weburbanist.com/2008/10/14/abandoned-airfields-airports-aircraft-airplanes/]More..[/url]
I too live in Costa Rica, within view of the wind turbines pictured and over looking lake Arenal, one of the worlds most efficient hydro projects. It’s huge 300m+ drop into the turbines though only a 100m high dam, that this water produces 40% of the countries electricity and a big part of CR 80% renewable energy total (wind 4% Geothermal 20%). Unfortunately the CR Gov. electric monopoly won’t allow a wind production increase beyond the 4% of total installed production capacity. Rather ICE (the Gov. Co.) been feverously installing bunker fuel consuming thermal plants to offset the incredibly large 10% increase in annual CR consumption. Please note there are no oil, gas or coal natural deposits in the country. Sad that the Gov wont let private energy producers build and operate wind plants –we could easily be like some EU countries and have 20% from wind in just a few years time, but no Big oil has it’s hand in our (the consumers) pocket here and wants to keep it that way. Rather than complain about hydro coal or whatever just try and use less, buy efficient appliances and use electricity efficiently, and if possible produce some of what you use, the Edison Westinghouse energy war has yet to see the final chapter written!
I appreciated your knowledge with respect to the viability of Wind energy in CR. I have seen the wind turbines over looking lake Arenal many times, and have thought about making a similar investment within that general area. My wife’s family lives near La Fortuna area which is another reason for my interest in the area. Has the Govt. Electric Utility modified its position with respect to allowing wind production over 4% since Sept 2008? Can you recommend any informational resources for anyone thinking about investing in wind energy in CR? How does the gov’t contract to buy the privately generated Electricity?
Chuck send me an e-mail and will be my pleasure to send you the energy law in CR. the process of installing a Eolic production in CR is not that easy, but will change dramatically in the next to years. We have to capacity to guide you trough the process. But let’s start with the actual law first.
Hello, I am interesting in that information as well. We live in a poor community just outside of Nicoya. This town has only had electricity for the last 15 years but there are more than 8 houses higher up the mountain with out water or electricity. I would really like to know how I might be able to help with solar or wind energy. Thanks. Dana
hi, i actually beg to differ. i live in costa rica, and i can tell you that it is not 99% powered by renewable energy. as a matter of fact, if it’s powered by 1% renewable energy, i will be happy.
costa rica, unfortunately, is an excellent marketer when it comes to sustainability, but has yet to come close to even getting an organics food line in this country.
I think, that’s really a very nice achievement for one developing country in comparison with G8.
Hydro power is also much, much better than any old fashioned fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, gas. Nuclear is simply far too expensive, if we exclude all state tax benefits and financial injections and include the cost of clearing up old nuclear rubbish and far too dangerous in modern world, which is full of (terror) threats.
We applaud Costa Rica for it’s efforts and leadership in environmental issues.
While Alex is correct about emission controls, to be fair, Costa Rica has an excellent public transportation system that is extensively used.
Costa Rica is a Second World country and has a growing economy. There is no doubt that they have made some compromises, but certainly you have to give them credit for their leadership.
I walk in Downtown San Jose often and I do not find the pollution near as bad as other major cities.
You wouldn’t notice this walking around San Jose. Because this is a third world city, there are little or no vehicle emissions regulations.
I am afraid that I have to agree with Robin. Hydro is probably the lesser of all evils. There is habitat destruction. However the damage is less permanent than other solutions.
The end of fossil fuels needs to be our #1 priority.
Bob you’re an idiot!
I agree with Adam
argumentum ad hominem – look it up.
Costa Rica has an GDP of 7% compared to us here in Australia, yet has a nearly 21% of our population. This means they have less money per person. Any since money brings personal and social wealth, which means greater power to protect and enhance health, education, and the environment, why would anyone want to replicate the energy constraints of this country, let alone limit it by disallowing more hydro electric stations? By the way, lifespan in Cost Rica is ranked 55 out of the whole 222 nations worldwide, which is not bad. But we Australian’s are at number 8. Long live electricity.
Costa Rica by far is the most happy nation according to Gallup Institute research. Australia is 7th, which is not bad, but it is reaching the same goal in much higher financial and environmental costs.
And Costa Rica is 24th in Life Expectancy (78,5 yrs), there is not a big difference with Australia.
costa rica is a 3rd world country… or developing country. not trying to sound rude but you sound very ignorant, by saying long live electricity when that is a huge problem facing the world
The problems with hydroelectric dams are environmentally annoying, though. But it’s better than coal.
Why don’t we stick with coal until we find an actual renewable energy source?