This Country Gets Nearly All Its Electricity From Clean Energy

December 7, 2015, 10:02 PM UTC
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Eugenia Logiuratto Wind turbines are seen at the Sierra de los Caracoles wind farm, in the department of Maldonado, east of Montevideo, on December 18, 2014. Windmills are beginning to dot Uruguay's countryside as the nation prepares to become the world's biggest wind energy producer in proportion to national consumption this year. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas GARCIA (Photo credit should read Nicolas Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Nicolas Garcia — AFP/Getty Images

While the world debates on how to make the shift towards renewables, Uruguay has announced that clean energy sources provide 94.5% of the nation’s electricity.

The South American country’s low-carbon mix of wind, solar, biomass and hydropower also make up 55% of the country’s entire energy mix, which includes transportation fuel, according to The Guardian. In comparison, the share of renewables in the total global energy mix hovers at around 12%, and is around 20% in Europe.

Now, the country’s head of climate change policy Ramón Méndez has made an ambitious pledge at this week’s United Nations climate change summit, saying that Uruguay would cut its carbon emissions by 88% by 2017.

That the country has managed to pivot away from oil – which accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports, said The Guardian – in just 15 years provides a case study for nations currently figuring out a solution on how to reduce their own carbon footprints. Part of the reason has been financial: In 2012, Uruguay ranked first in the global top five countries with the highest share of its GDP invested in renewable energy, according to the environmental non-protfit group WWF.

Over the past five years, energy investment in Uruguay has risen to $7 billion, and makes up 15% of the country’s annual GDP, reported The Guardian. This has led WWF to claim that “the country is defining global trends in renewable energy investment”.

“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”

Mendez also lists the country’s good natural conditions that benefit wind and solar energy growth and strong public-private partnerships as reasons for their success in renewables.

The COP21 conference has also touted the success stories of developing nations such as Costa Rica, which went 94 consecutive days without using fossil fuel for electricity this year. The gathering of the world’s top government officials is in its second week of negotiations, with the aim of reaching a worldwide agreement to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius.