So far this year, Costa Rica has not burned one drop of oil or one lump of coal or one cubic foot of natural gas to generate electricity. So far this year, all of Costa Rica’s electrical power has come from renewable energy sources such as hydro, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal.
The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) says, “The year 2015 has been one of electricity totally friendly to the environment for Costa Rica. Thanks to this year’s abundance of renewable energy, the country has lowered electricity rates by 12 percent. ICE predicts that rates will drop further for its customers in the second quarter of the year.
According to Think Progress, Costa Rica normally gets about 88 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Hydroelectric plants supply the majority of the country’s electricity at 68 percent, while geothermal plants provide about 15 percent, wind power provides 5 percent, and solar and biomass contribute the rest. Heavier than normal rains have boosted its production of hydroelectric power so far this year.
In 2014, Costa Rica’s embarked on a $958 million geothermal project with the cooperation of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the European Investment Bank. Also, ICE expects to have 100 megawatts from wind energy and 40 megawatts of small scale hydroelectric plants through 2015. “In the case of electricity, the aim is to stop burning petroleum derivatives,” Ulises Zuniga Blanco, an engineer at ICE, told Bloomberg in 2012. “The projects included in this process will contribute to this objective of carbon neutrality.”
In addition to its hydroelectric and geothermal programs, Costa Rica uses funds from fees and taxes to pay for preserving natural spaces. It pays landowners to plant trees and not cut down old-growth forests, a policy that helped increase forest cover in the country from 24 percent in 1985 to 46 percent in 2010.
Costa Rica can devote so much funding to environmental issues because the country abolished its military in 1948, allowing it to divert funds that would have gone towards defense needs to the environment, healthcare, and education. “We are declaring peace with nature,” Costa Rican ambassador Mario Fernández Silva said in 2010. “We feel a strong sense of responsibility about looking after our wealth of biodiversity. Our attitude is not progressive, it is conservative. Our view is that until we know what we have, it is our duty to protect it.”
Isn’t it interesting how the word “conservative” can mean different things in different countries?