4 countries that are examples in renewable energy systems

Iceland, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Norway are four countries that can already boast of generating all their energy with renewable sources. Although it is true that 100% has not yet been reached during each and every one of the 365 days of the year, it is true that dirty energy sources are already something marginal in these countries. They are the example to follow for the rest of the planet.

There are four nations that constitute the spearhead in the energy transition towards renewable sources. In reality, they have practically completed that transition and have left fossil fuels behind. How has it been possible? In all cases, they are processes that began many years ago and, furthermore, they always had their governments as staunch defenders of this transformation.


Iceland is a country that, above all, consumes a lot of energy per capita, which is quite understandable if you take into account the low temperatures that are recorded throughout the year. Furthermore, it has been a historically poor nation. In fact, until the 1970s it was included in the category of developing countries by the United Nations.

Its economy was always based on agriculture and fishing. And, as for the sources to generate energy, they have always been fossil fuels, fundamentally imported. Therefore, it did not seem like an example of sustainability. And yet, the Icelandic political authorities decided to change course around 1980.

This is how Iceland, with 360,000 inhabitants, radically transformed its conventional energy mix for one based on domestic renewable sources. Renewable energies surpassed 99% of energy production in the 1980s and have continued to do so ever since. Today, all of Iceland's electrical power is generated by hydroelectric and geothermal power.

Without realizing it, the energy was on the island itself and, moreover, free and clean. Volcanoes provide geothermal energy in abundant amounts. And, on the other hand, hydroelectric power is the other most important source of supply.

In Iceland, geothermal energy is used, in addition to generating electricity through large steam turbines, to provide heating for entire cities through centralized urban systems, to melt snow on sidewalks, to heat swimming pools, to supply energy for fish farming, greenhouses and food or cosmetics processing. 95% of the houses in the country are heated with this energy, recalls the Ph.D. in Physics from the Complutense University of Madrid, Ignacio Mártil.

Keep in mind that Iceland is the first country in the world in energy consumption per capita, with 194.2 megawatts per hour. And the first on the planet in electricity consumption per capita, with 54.7.


Uruguay is a country of 3.4 million inhabitants that is setting an example to the world on how to take advantage of clean energy sources. Above all, it takes advantage of the potential of its rivers for hydroelectric generation and, in addition, makes a significant investment effort in this matter, because it dedicates 3% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually to a global plan to reorient energy towards renewable sources. 

As a result of all this, already in 2016, it exceeded 90% of renewable generation and in 2018, it was the first country in South America in electricity production from renewable sources, with 97%. The latest known data from the State Electricity of Uruguay, UTE, are very encouraging as they indicate that 98% of the electricity consumed in the country during the year 2019 came from renewable sources. 55.6% comes from hydroelectric plants, another 33.6% from wind installations, 6% comes from biomass, 2.8% from photovoltaic energy and 2% from solar thermal.

According to UTE, 2019, in addition to being a record year for renewables, was also a record year for total electricity generation (14,000 GWh) and that exported.

Regarding energy exports, almost 3,000 GWh were sold to Brazil and Argentina during the year that has just ended, the equivalent of 21% of Uruguayan electricity demand, a percentage never reached before. Of the total exported, 80% went to Argentina, and the remaining 20% ​​to Brazil.

In 2019, the Government and the UTE company developed all kinds of energy efficiency projects and programs, efficient and sustainable mobility, waste recovery, circular economy and energy communes.

Rural households that did not have access to the electricity grid were also reached. Five pilot electrification projects with off-grid solutions are currently being implemented. These houses, which until now had no electricity, have substantially improved their quality of life.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a heavenly country blessed by nature, has 5.5 million inhabitants. Currently, it generates more than 99% of its electricity through five different renewable sources: hydroelectric power (78%), wind power (10%), geothermal power (10%), biomass and solar power (1%).

The main one is, as in the previous case, the hydraulics that, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity, ICE, generates 78% of the electricity. This is because its privileged location in the middle of the Caribbean Sea allows it to take advantage of this resource.

Costa Rica has promoted the use of renewable energies since the middle of the last century in order to conserve the environment and free itself from dependence on oil-producing countries.

According to Tabaré Arroyo, author of the study 'Leaders in Clean Energy', this long history has been successful thanks to two key mechanisms that have facilitated the penetration of renewable energies into the energy mix. The first, a specific system of auctions by technology that allowed to increase the contracting of additional capacity. The second, a program that encourages consumers to produce energy by selling excess energy to the grid.

Likewise, Costa Rica has chosen to encourage the purchase of electric cars by eliminating the taxes associated with them. It will also promote the creation of an infrastructure of charging stations throughout the country, trusting that the development of more autonomous and cheaper batteries will do the rest. In addition to optimizing the public transport service thanks to the adoption of an electric train with a capacity for 250,000 people, almost 74 kilometers long and three lines and 42 stations in 15 cantons of the country.


Norway (5 million inhabitants) is the great European benchmark in terms of sustainable energy sources. Since 2018, Norway has approached 100% renewable production throughout the year, and its main source is hydroelectric energy, responsible for more than 96% of the total generated. It was the Norwegian fjords and the energy obtained from the force of the water that started Norway on its successful clean energy path already at the end of the 19th century.

The rest of the supply comes from wind, solar and biofuels, although to a much lesser extent.

Norway is also leading green transport, not only by land, but also by sea (some of the first electric boats operate there) and in less than a decade it has proposed to turn its mobility around, betting on the electric vehicle.

Paradoxically, Norway has achieved a high standard of living thanks to the hydrocarbon industry, a fuel that it tries to bury in the past.

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