Skip to content

Costa Rica & Renewable Energy

November 24, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Patsy Lacey



Costa Rica powered its electricity using only renewable energy sources for 300 days this year.

Smashing its own record of 250 days of renewable-only power in 2016, the Central American country has gone most of the year so far without resorting to fossil fuels.

According to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), the nation of five-million people managed to go 200 days in a row relying solely on renewables for electric power.

ICE figures show 99.62 per cent of the country’s electricity production is now generated from five renewable sources.


Wind power provides over 10 per cent of Costa Rica's electricity (AFP/Getty)

Wind power provides over 10 per cent of Costa Rica’s electricity (AFP/Getty)


The primary source is hydropower, which provides 78.26 per cent of Costa Rican electricity. This is followed by wind power (10.29 per cent), geothermal energy (10.23 per cent), biomass and solar (0.84 per cent) and hydrocarbons (0.38 per cent).

When renewable sources are unavailable, the Costa Rican grid defaults to a thermal backup to generate power. It hasn’t had to do that since 1 May, marking 200-day streak relying just on renewables, and 300 days in total.

Costa Rica’s energy mix is in sharp contrast to that of the United States, which generated about 15 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2016.

Volcanoes source of the steam to power this geothermal power plant run by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (Getty)

Volcanoes source of the steam to power this geothermal power plant run by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (Getty)


Meanwhile coal and natural gas made up nearly two-thirds of US electricity generation and nuclear power provided the remaining 19 per cent.

"It really is time to debunk the myth that a country has to choose between development on the one hand and environmental protection, renewables, quality of life, on the other," the founder of renewable energy initiative group Costa Rica Limpia, Monica Araya, said in a 2016 TED talk.

Costa Rica benefits from an abundance of rainfall which sources the country’s vast hydropower network.

As of the second quarter of 2017, renewables generated 29.8 per cent of the UK’s electricity.


"It really is time to debunk the myth that a country has to choose between development on the one hand and environmental protection, renewables, quality of life, on the other”

Well, if you live in a mountainous land with plenty of rainfall, and uninhabited valleys, then maybe. Add in a smattering of active volcanoes to give you plenty of geothermal energy, and who needs fossil fuels?


But what makes this so dishonest is that very little has actually changed in Costa Rica over the years.




Since 2001, hydro capacity has been built up as demand has increased. But geothermal power has been around since the 1980s, and wind power is still insignificant and totally unreliable.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel generation was actually higher in 2015 than it was in 2001.

With weather being weather, there are sometimes years like 2012 when rainfall is less reliable, and the standby thermal plant is needed.


It is eminently sensible for Costa Rica to develop the resources it has in abundance, but we don’t need their lectures.

If they really want to convince us, then let them shut down their thermal plant completely, and while they are at it get rid of fossil fuelled transport as well.

  1. November 24, 2017 6:36 pm

    What a hoot, the “greens” don’t like Costa Rica at all, because the people are now rich enough to afford to cars! So not only do they have the wrong kind of renewables (nasty dams, keeping out the beloved wind/solar), they have the wrong kind of cars, the kind that burn wicked stuff:

  2. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 24, 2017 6:58 pm

    Per Capita GDP (2016) – Costa Rica $16141, USA $57293 – says it all.

    This is a temporary hydro success not a windmill/solar success, which is the ‘renewable’ policy being foisted on the rest of us.

    So the take home message is that if you are fortunate enough to have plenty of hydro potential and don’t mind damaging your river eco-systems or taking a 70% cut in wealth, you can live in hope that the rains don’t fail and your society doesn’t collapse like Venezuela which also relied on hydro instead of it own oil – then there was a drought and the rest is history!

  3. November 24, 2017 6:59 pm

    Equally dishonest is to compare a country with a population of 5 million to one of 323.1 million.

  4. November 24, 2017 7:10 pm

    Lots of UN types, e.g. UNiversity of Peace, UNESCO, live in Costa Rica. So the utopian propaganda shouldn’t surprise.

    • November 25, 2017 2:38 pm

      The author of the Paris Climate Accord which came from the UN is Costa Rican, Christiana Figueres. She is a member of the National Liberation Party. She stated the purpose of the Paris Climate Accord was to get rid of Capitalism in favor or “Socialism.” That would be Marxism by a gentler name. Any questions?

  5. Tom Dowter permalink
    November 24, 2017 7:13 pm

    My electricity bill is considerably smaller than my gas bill. In the world as a whole, electricity represents only a fraction of the total energy production/consumption.

    Moreover, the usage of energy in under-developed countries is much smaller than in developed ones. Given that Costa Rica is under-developed, has plenty of sunlight and plenty of (too much) wind, then their “achievement” can hardly be regarded as a model for the rest of us!

    • Sheri permalink
      November 24, 2017 9:41 pm

      Costa Rica uses about 15% of the energy per capita as the USA. It’s an apples to oranges comparison.

      If we carefully chose an area in the USA about the physical size of Costa Rica, we might be able to pull off the same thing—say the Northwest with all their hydro.

      Iceland has the highest per capita use of electricity, but because it’s mostly geothermal and hydro, no one cares.

  6. November 24, 2017 7:15 pm

    Just try and build lots of hydro and see how the green blob reacts.

    • Stosh permalink
      November 24, 2017 7:24 pm

      Two or three dams build on every river in the U.S., who would even notice…/sarc

    • Dave Ward permalink
      November 25, 2017 12:59 pm

      “Just try and build lots of hydro and see how the green blob reacts”

      From climanrecon’s Grauniad link above:

      “The heavy reliance on dams carries its own cost. The Reventazón project was criticized by environmental groups for its position along a critical wildlife corridor and the planned Diquís dam in the country’s south-west has been held up for years due to conflicts with indigenous groups”

      ‘Nuff said…

  7. November 24, 2017 7:50 pm

    British Columbia Canada is almost 100% hydro electric but encourages the building of bird mincers. Follow the money. The province is building a new hydro plant and the greenies are all up in arms. Do a search of “site C”

  8. Curious George permalink
    November 24, 2017 8:23 pm

    Yanomami don’t use fossil fuels at all. One day we may reach their perfection.

  9. November 24, 2017 9:53 pm

    Great comments here to an interesting post about Costa Rico! Sadly, we are the “choir”, as in “preaching to…..”.

  10. November 24, 2017 10:41 pm

    Good post, excellent comments. Comparing Costa Rica to US or, say, UK is utter nonsense. Different topography, different population density, different GDP level and composition (less industry, more ag), plus because of latitude less/no need for winter heating. Another green intellectual dishonesty reveal. As bad as Stanford’s Jacobsen debunked fantasy.

  11. November 24, 2017 11:59 pm

    That area is on the Central American power grid so it’s wrong to just consider the generation within the country. You have to think about import export. Some days they might be importing a lot if non-green power
    And never take the figs at face value anyway, cos their politics is corrupt.
    (Like they pretend they don’t have an army..but turns out they have many special police squadrons with similar equipment.)
    Also cos some parts are remote or islands there’s people with home generators.

  12. HotScot permalink
    November 25, 2017 12:33 am

    Christiana Figueres said:

    “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,”

    She is, of course, from Costa Rica, and her socialist ideology seeks to drag every successful country down to the level of her own.

    • Philip of Taos permalink
      November 25, 2017 1:05 am

      The development model has been going since man started trading with each other, it’s called the free market. Every other model is just a means of trying to regulate it, while some regulation might help – morality comes to mind – most just throw a wrench in to the mix causing various degrees of damage.

    • November 25, 2017 2:40 pm

      As I posted above, she is a member of the National Liberation Party. That is Marxism on parade.

  13. November 25, 2017 3:41 am

    New Zealand is pretty much renewable too. Blessed with quite a lot of hydro, and typically running about 80% renewable.

    • squiggy9000 permalink
      November 27, 2017 4:10 pm

      You guys in Middle Earth are blessed. Until you can export your blessedness leave the rest of us alone.

  14. John F. Hultquist permalink
    November 25, 2017 3:59 am

    A much better comparison would be with the State of Washington. See the electricity section, last paragraph, at this site:

    Including: “More than half of all Washington households use electricity as their primary heating source.”

  15. November 25, 2017 8:31 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  16. L. Douglas permalink
    November 25, 2017 8:43 am

    I like this story! I hope that the Green Blob makes Costa Rica the polar bear of Green Energy and gives them a Nobel Prize. I hope they create the Costa Rica Model for Sustainable Renewability and Harmony, or something like that.

    Then, as earlier commenters have suggested, try to export this model to other countries and watch green heads explode. Here in British Columbia that already happened when pilot programs were initiated. That program ended but exposed the simplistic hypocrisy of its opponents. But what could they say if the larger Blob was bragging about what they opposed? Would be great inter-green chaos and lunacy all round.

    So I hope the news of this inspiring Costa Rican green miracle spreads far and wide.

  17. Ben Vorlich permalink
    November 25, 2017 10:10 am

    The European special case, lowish population high natural resources, is the Nordic Grid. Today 68% of electricity generation is either hydro or wind (about a ratio of 9:1 for hydro) and about 82% if nuclear is included.

    On the other hand Spain is getting less than 2% of its electricity from solar and almost as much from coal 22% and wind 25%.

    It would appear that Hydro is the most reliable of the so called renewables, but is by no means environmentally friendly. In the event of drought then even that has its problems. I see that parts of France are still suffering from low rainfall and some people have expressed concern about the nuclear stations which use river water for cooling. I’m not sure how much of this is from the anti-nuclear lobby and how much is a real potential problem.

  18. Europeanonion permalink
    November 25, 2017 10:12 am

    I bet power demand is far more predictable there than it ever could be here. I say bottle-up those volcanoes; think what they are spewing into the air?

  19. November 25, 2017 2:45 pm

    I also hooted at the likening of Costa Rica with the United States. So we are in competition with a third world country?

    As Rush Limbaugh points out from time to time, the problem is not an unequal distribution of wealth. Rather it is the result of an unequal distribution of Capitalism. These countries need to fix their governments–Central and South America, Africa, much of Asia–and quit blaming the United States and scheming to pick our pockets.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: