Costa Rica has run exclusively on renewable energy for 150 days so far this year.
And half of those days were achieved in only the last few months.
The country is the first in the world to power itself for so long without the use of fossil fuels, and residents are definitely feeling the benefits, with electricity prices set to fall between 7% and 15% in April, the Guardian reports.
But while it’s easy to use Costa Rica’s renewable energy success as a model for larger nations to follow, it’s not an example that the big polluters of the world can easily copy anytime soon.
First, there’s Costa Rica’s size. At just 19,730 square miles (nearly 1/5 of the size of the UK), it only needs a handful of power plants to light up large parts of the country.
Then there’s the fact that Costa Rica really doesn’t use that much electricity compared to countries like the UK, Canada and the United States. In 2015, Costa Ricans generated about 10,713 gigawatt-hours of electricity according to a report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
By contrast, the U.S. generated about 373 times more electricity, with roughly 4 million gigawatt-hours in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Mind you, there are 4.9 million people living in Costa Rica compared with the 318.9 million living in America.
Lastly, the majority of Costa Rica’s clean power comes from hydropower facilities, which are fed by abundant seasonal rainfall and multiple rivers.
For a country like the UK to tap into all of these natural resources would require a lot of work, and consequently, a lot of loss – we would need to alter rivers, which would in turn displace people, animals, farms, and destroy vegetation.
That’s where solar and nuclear power come in, but in order to offer such a vast alternative for clean energy, more research and investment is required to make them cost-effective and safe.
These limitations, along with a lack of political will, are what has made the world rely on fossil fuels for almost 90% of its energy since 1999.
So as admirable as Costa Rica’s feats in energy production may be, it may not be realistic for the world’s largest polluters just yet.
The point is though that Costa Rica has succeeded in sustaining its country without the use of fossil fuels. And hopefully, with the right research and political backing, so will the rest of the world.