As nations across the world are putting in the effort to help tackle the climate crisis, some places are doing better than others. With the United Nations Paris agreement signed by 175 countries, they have vowed to help with the long-term goal that is keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above the pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change. As most of us are aware, a big part of how we can help reduce global warming comes from how we generate our power. With the traditional way of making energy coming from burning fossil fuels, which heats the atmosphere as well as polluting it, we have to look at the greener alternatives which are renewable sources. Here we have 5 countries, cities and towns who are already achieving above target which can set a good example and provide ideas to countries which are yet to follow:
Iceland is a country running on 100% renewable energy. It gets 75% of the electricity from hydropower, and 25% from geothermal. The country then takes advantage of its volcanic activity to access geothermal energy, with 87% of its hot water and heating coming from this source. Despite renewables been better for the environment, this isn’t what originally motivated Iceland to make the switch to green in the 1970s. According to Halla Hrund Logadóttir, of the UN Chronicle, Iceland, which was still classed as a developing country at the time, could not sustain oil price fluctuations – It required a stable and economically feasible domestic energy resource for its isolated location on the edge of the Arctic Circle. Since Iceland is isolated from the rest of Europe, it made the importation of oil expensive, so by generating their own energy it made perfect sense as it meant that they could come self-sufficient. The switchover meant the country now has cleaner air due to utilizing renewable sources rather than fossil fuels. Iceland’s plans for the future include banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
With a population of just under 5 million, Costa Rica is quickly reaching its target of becoming carbon neutral this year, with 99.62% of the country’s electricity coming from renewables in 2019. Geographically speaking, Costa Rica is in a good spot – it has an abundance of free-flowing water. The water generates more than 78% of the country’s electricity, with the remainder made up through wind turbines, geothermal energy, and solar. Costa Rica is often the victim of hurricanes and tropical storms as well as having the risk in which a large number of volcanoes involves. According to The Costa Rican News, during the passage of the tropical storm “Nate” in October 2017, the country managed to maintain its electricity supply through the use of renewable sources. It could even help its neighbouring countries by exporting energy to the Regional Electricity Market (MER). This meant that homes didn’t go without power in what can be a frightening and destructive time. The fact that they could also share energy with neighbouring countries in times of disaster is good news, as not only Costa Rica is reaping the rewards of their renewable energy supplies.
Rock Port, Missouri is a tiny town the north-west of the U.S with a population of just 1,300. The town is located just in the right place to receive some of the nation’s best wind resources. With Rock Port making the most of its location, it runs entirely off of wind power. The wind farm is a private-public partnership, with the well-known company John Deere joining forces with local entrepreneurs and town leaders to create the Wind Capital Group. They have 4 wind turbines which are connected to the grid and they provide about 125% of the towns energy needs, meaning that they can sell any unused power. “We’re farming the wind, which is something that we have a lot of up here. The payback on a per-acre basis is generally quite good when compared to a lot of other crops, and it’s as simple as getting a cup of coffee and watching the blades spin”, said Jim Crawford, a natural resource engineer at the University of Missouri Extension in Columbia. “Anybody who is currently using Rock Port utilities can expect no increase in rates for the next 15 to 20 years,” Crawford said. Jerry Baker, an MU Extension community development specialist, added that the turbines could also increase tourist attraction to the area. For a town which is quite a drive from any major cities, the potential of bringing a bit of tourism to the area would be a good little boost for their local economy, without them needed to do much more than just have a cup of coffee, according to Jim Crawford, and with the town located on the road down to Kansas City, it makes it accessible for the tourists to stop off at. Rock Ports wind farm is a good example to small towns that it is easy to generate a lot of their power from a renewable source that works for them.
The second-largest island in the U.S, Kodiak Island, Alaska, has also gone 100% renewable. The island, which has a population of 15,000, had a goal set by the Kodiak Electric Association (KEA) to produce 95% of the community’s electrical needs with renewable energy by 2020. They achieved their goal well ahead of time with 99.7% renewably powered by wind and hydro in 2015, meaning they no longer have to import diesel to burn for power. The project has brought a financial positive to the area; the average electricity rate in Alaska is 50% higher than the national average, making it once of the highest in the country for electricity. This is partly because most of the communities in Alaska rely on imported diesel for their electricity. Now, in Kodiak Island, the prices of electricity have dropped 2.5% lower than in 2001, meaning the community is making a saving as well as going green. With the State of Alaska been set the goal of reaching 50% renewable by 2025, Kodiak Island has set a great example of how to reach and exceed it, as well as showing the money-saving potential renewable power brings.
Bruneck, a town in the north of Italy gets all of its energy from a range of different renewable sources. For heating, it has rooftop solar thermal systems which provide water heating, a biomass plant and a biogas plant which is near a landfill site. Their electricity comes from rooftop solar panels, small hydroelectric plants, and a biogas plant that is fed by wood waste. Bruneck’s primary school and fire station are completely self-sufficient from their rooftop solar panels. The town has a policy which requires that all the buildings have to meet up to 25% of their own energy needs with renewable sources, including 50% of their hot water needs. The country has a feed-in tariff law which guarantees connection to the grid for all producers of renewable energy, and they allow them to sell their energy for a reasonable price. The town’s policy means that buildings and homes have more responsibility for their power and how much they use. This could mean that people are less likely to waste electricity as they have to meet up to at least 25% of their usage with their own power which they have generated.
These are just some of the places which have gone 100% renewable. New data published by the non-profit environmental research body CDP has shown that more than 100 cities across the world are now predominantly powered by renewable energy, this marks a significant shift away from traditional fossil fuels, and the number of cities using renewables has doubled since 2015. This data means that nations are acting fast and we should look forward to more predominantly renewable-powered, if not 100% renewably powered countries, cities and towns in the upcoming years.