I am fascinated by rapidly developing technology and what the world will be like in the future. I hope you enjoy this peek into the future.
With concerns growing regarding burning fossil fuels and their connection to global warming, a great debate is occurring regarding the feasibility of producing electricity entirely from non-carbon emitting green renewable energy sources such as geothermal, hydroelectric, wind, and solar. Skeptics and naysayers claim that achieving such a goal is impractical, would destroy the economy, and is in the realm of pie-in-the-sky thinking.
But, is it actually impractical and unattainable? The answer is clearly no since there are already several countries that generate 100% of the electricity they use from renewable sources of energy. There are also many other countries that obtain over 90% of the electricity they use from renewable energy sources. Despite the negative rhetoric by some, there’s nothing impractical about using renewable energy to generate electricity on a grand scale.
The Countries Leading The Way To a 100% Renewable Energy Electricity Future
The following is a list countries that are leading the world into the new frontier of economies that run their electrical grids either entirely or nearly entirely on renewable energy per a 2018 report by the International Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) statistics. This list and the percentages are subject to change over time, but it provides a good snapshot of just how practical renewable energy currently is for electricity generation.
- Iceland obtains 100% of the electricity it needs from renewable energy sources. Iceland is somewhat unique since volcanic activity on the island provides a significant geothermal energy source that is utilized to provide approximately one-quarter of the country’s electricity. The remaining three quarters are provided by hydro-power.
- Paraguay obtains 100% of the electricity it uses from renewable sources, mainly huge hydro-power dams provide all of Paraguay's electricity needs, as well as supplying neighboring Argentina and Brazil with electricity.
- Costa Rica is another country leading the way towards 100% renewable-produced electricity. During 2018, Costa Rica met all of its electricity needs using renewable energy sources such as hydro-power, geothermal, biomass, wind, and solar for 300 days in a row.
- Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Norway, Tajikistan, and Uruguay are countries currently generating greater than 90% of the electricity they use from renewable energy sources. Some of these countries are working towards running their electric networks entirely from renewable energy.
Some things stand out from the list of countries leading the way on electricity generated from renewable energy.
- They are relatively small countries.
- They have abundant renewable natural resources, particularly abundant water resources available to generate hydro-power.
- The list includes both wealthy developed and poor developing countries.
The fact that both developed wealthy countries and poor developing countries are leaders in renewable energy produced electricity indicates that the cost of constructing renewable energy resources is not a limiting factor. In fact, developing countries can justify the capital cost of building renewable energy sources of electricity due to the fact that the operating costs are relatively low and predictable (not subject to commodity price swings) and renewable energy allows a country to be self-sufficient in meeting its electricity needs.
A Hydro-Power Dam Near Polson, Montana, U.S.A.
Large Developed Countries Can Also Produce 100% of Their Electricity From Renewable Energy
Critics and naysayers might say that while these achievements by small countries are impressive, implementing renewable energy on a large-scale is impractical for larger developed countries. But is it really impractical?
Cost and technological barriers are not what they once were for renewable energy. In fact, costs for renewable energy continue to decline year after year and renewable energy technologies continue to develop and become more efficient. Many countries have not even come close to tapping their renewable energy potential or even tried some of the technologies available, such as electricity generated by wave or tidal power. Additionally, the argument that renewable energy is only useful when it is being generated is becoming irrelevant since large utility-scale batteries are now available that have the capability to store electricity generated by renewable energy and allow it to be used when needed.
Clearly, the answer is yes, large developed countries can produce 100% of the electricity they need from renewable sources. It is only a matter of the will and investment at this point to make the changeover from fossil fuel-generated electricity to renewable energy electricity generation. The technical barriers are not as great as naysayers claim, as proven by smaller countries that have already reached the 100% threshold. Moving towards 100% renewable energy sources of electricity will become easier over time, as wind, solar and other renewables become more efficient and large utility-scale battery storage technologies become capable of storing larger quantities of energy for use when needed.
The City of Los Angles Leads The Way in the U.S. With Inexpensive Solar
Various forms of renewable energy have experienced significant cost reductions to a point at which they are competitive and in some cases cheaper than traditional electrical energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. This cost reduction trend will accelerate the change over to renewable sources of electricity. For example, the City of Los Angles signed a deal in July 2019 for a large solar electricity array that will provide 7% of the city's electricity by 2025 at cost of only 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This is far cheaper than fossil fuel-derived electricity.
In addition to being cost-competitive, the practicality and reliability of renewable energy are poised to make major advances as large utility-scale battery technologies are rolled out that can be used to capture renewable energy when it is created, so the electricity can be used at a later time when needed. The Los Angles solar array project includes utility-scale battery backup at a cost 1.3 cents per kWh, so the electricity generated by the sun will be available even when the sun is not shining.
Los Angles has a goal of achieving 100% renewable electricity generation by 2050. This solar contract is a big step in the direction of achieving their goal.
100% Renewable Energy Electricity Poll
Which Countries Run On 100% Renewable Energy?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 John Coviello
Dianna Mendez on September 09, 2019:
Great to see countries adopt this energy process. Thanks for the education.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 02, 2019:
I do not think I get the part of Dams. You flood canyons to have the water backed up. That is making the canyon un-renewable. The byproducts from harnessing steam are really gross and in those compounds are not biodegradable -- sodium benzoate type stuff. Certainly we cannot figure out how to dispose of Solar panel heavy metal waste. Our wind turbines are great here i So Cal. they estimate that they kill upwards to 100 birds a day - obviously some endangered. You cannot renew a Bald Eagle.
So I think this article is great but I also think we need to be realistic about what renewable means.
The computer you just wrote this on is not biodegradable.
I am just saying that the only way to create a cleaner planet is to lower our footprint and stem overpopulation.
I heard they want to dam some parts of the Amazon river.
Ken Burgess from Florida on August 29, 2019:
I think renewable energy's potential impact is far more possible here in America than anywhere else, imagine if every independant home had a solar energy system, battery storage, and EV?
But I am sure the Electric, Oil, Gas, companies do not want that, and there-in lies the problem. Their lobbyists in D.C. not only work to slow such becoming an affordable reality, they work to make such a thing illegal. I know in Florida in the 2016 election they tried to do just that, make it illegal for you to generate off grid power without paying the power companies to do so. Insane, but, that's America for you.
As an aside, all this talk about CO reduction and renewable energy is moot when we allow what is going on in Brazil:
Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on August 27, 2019:
This is a great article! There is so much potential to not only heal our planet by cleaning it but with this action creating energy with good paying jobs! I'm all for protecting and healing our planet!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 27, 2019:
It's satisfying to see the list of countries that generate 90-100% of their electricity from renewable sources. The list is amazing in that it includes countries that are not highly developed. Kudos to them.
Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on August 27, 2019:
Renewable energy like solar and wind can never replace fossil fuel. They are just not reliable enough. In Palm Springs, I took a tour of their wind farms. They told me they have a gas power plant as backup. They can fire it up in 10 minutes when the wind does not produce enough power... which can happen when the wind speed is too low and when it is too high. They have to shut off the rotors else it will be damaged by the high wind speed. The same problem exist with solar. Even as the cost comes down and efficiency goes up, what do you do on a cloudy day or at night?
Liz Westwood from UK on August 27, 2019:
This is a fascinating and very topical and relevant article. I have learned a lot. I was surprised to find that using 100% renewables is not restricted to the wealthier countries.