12 Countries Leading the Way in Renewable Energy

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Blog Post Thursday 10 August 2017

12 Countries Leading the Way in Renewable Energy

12 Countries Leading the Way in Renewable Energy

You’ll be glad to know there’s hope for the planet yet. Despite a lack of political will in some countries, the move to renewable energy is pretty much inevitable and some scientists think it’s going to come sooner rather than later.

A recent study by Stanford University researchers predicted that the world could be powered entirely by renewable energy in just 20 to 40 years from now. And given that we already have the technology, it’s not that hard to imagine.

Almost 50 countries that would be adversely affected by climate change have agreed to make their energy production 100% renewable by the year 2050 and countries all over the world are actively embracing solar, wind, and geothermal energy.

Here we look at 12 countries in particular who are leading the way in the switch to renewable energy.

Iceland

Iceland generates the most clean electricity per person on earth, with almost 100% of its energy coming from renewable sources that make the most of its unique landscape. It now derives all of its energy for electricity and home heating from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants. Its renewable power plants like the geothermal plant at Blue Lagoon even draw significant amounts of tourists every year!

Sweden

Sweden has always had pretty good environmental credentials and in 2015, they threw down the gauntlet with an ambitious goal: eliminating fossil fuel usage within its borders. They also challenged the rest of the world to a race to become 100% renewable. They’ve increased their own investment in solar power, wind power, energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport.

Costa Rica

Because of its small size (just 4.9 million people) and unique geography (67 volcanoes), Costa Rica is able to meet a large part of its energy needs from hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, and wind sources. The country aims to be completely carbon-neutral by the year 2021 and has already achieved some impressive results, running on 100% renewable energy for more than two months twice in the last two years.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is another Central American country where renewable energy is growing in importance. Like Costa Rica, they have a number of volcanoes, making geothermal energy production viable and thanks to government investment in wind, solar, and geothermal energy, their aim of being 90% renewables-powered by the year 2020 appears to be an achievable goal.

United Kingdom

The UK is a windy place and wind power is growing in importance. Using a combination of grid-connected wind farms and standalone turbines, the United Kingdom now generates more electricity from wind farms than from coal power plants. Some days, Scotland is able to produce enough wind power to supply over 100% of Scottish households. Neighbouring Ireland also continues to set new records, with enough energy to power more than 1.26 million homes being created on just one windy day in 2015.

Germany

For a cloudy country, Germany looks set for a bright future with solar energy. Their renewable energy output including solar has increased more than eightfold since 1990. In 2015, they set a record for meeting up to 78% of the country’s electricity demand with renewables on one highly productive day.

Uruguay

Uruguay is a shining example of how to do it right. Thanks to a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector, the country has invested heavily in wind and solar power, without using subsidies or increasing consumer costs. And as a result, it now boasts a national energy supply that’s 95% renewables-powered, achieved in less than 10 years.

Denmark

Denmark aims to be 100% fossil-fuel-free by 2050 and it plans to use wind power to achieve that goal. They already set a world record in 2014, producing almost 40% of their overall electricity needs from wind power and the latest figures put them firmly on track to meet their first goal of obtaining 50% of their electricity from renewables by the year 2020.

China

They may be the world’s largest polluter, but China is also the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy, with huge investment levels both at home and overseas.  China now owns: five of the world’s six largest solar-module manufacturing firms; the largest wind-turbine manufacturer; the world’s largest lithium ion manufacturer; and the world’s largest electricity utility. China is fully committed to reducing fossil fuel consumption and with its heavily polluted cities has every incentive for doing so.

Morocco

Morocco is a country with an abundance of sunshine (up to 350 days a year), so it has wisely decided to invest heavily in solar powered energy production. The first phase of the world’s biggest concentrated solar plant recently opened in Morocco and in combination with their wind and hydro production facilities, is predicted to produce enough energy for more than one million Moroccan households by 2018.

USA

The United States of America has one of the world’s largest installed solar PV capacities and an installed wind energy capacity second only to China. But it is also one of the world’s biggest energy consumers, which tends to cancel out much of its renewable capacity. Nevertheless, if more attention was paid to renewables over fossil fuels, it has been estimated that the U.S. could reduce its emissions by almost 80% in only 15 years, without impacting on consumer electricity costs.

Kenya

In the past, Kenya has been forced to import electricity from neighbouring countries, but they are working hard to reverse this by investing heavily in geothermal energy production, which accounted for more than half their energy mix in 2015. They also have Africa’s largest wind farm, providing another 20% of their installed electricity generating capacity.

Answering Your Renewable Energy Questions

Renewable energy is increasingly becoming more common throughout the world. But who uses it, are there any disadvantages, and how does it work? We’ve answered a few questions to give you a quick overview.

What country uses the most renewable energy?

Iceland is the worldwide leader when it comes to renewable energy. It's set itself ambitious targets for drastically reducing fossil fuel consumption and escalating investments in renewables. This country is investing heavily in solar and wind, as well as renewable infrastructure such as energy storage, clean transport, and smart grids.

Iceland is trailed by countries like Sweden, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Scotland, and Germany. Costa Rica is drawing on its hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, and wind sources, while Nicaragua has wind, solar, and geothermal energy. Scotland has abundant wind power sources and infrastructure, while Germany is looking for ways to further ramp up its solar energy capabilities.

What countries use only renewable energy?

Iceland is currently the only country in the world that obtains 100% of its energy from renewable resources, with 87% of its from hydro-power and 13% from geothermal power. Costa Rica is among the top renewable energy users, with 99% of its electricity needs coming from hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind. Close behind is Norway, with 98% of electricity coming from renewable resources, mostly hydropower.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy sources?

Solar offers a potentially unlimited energy supply and individual properties have the convenience of generating their own power directly from the sun. However, a potential drawback is solar panels can be expensive to purchase and install.

Wind is another potentially unlimited energy supply that's widely available, but wind farms can be costly to set up. Local communities sometimes object to wind farms because they think wind turbines spoils rural landscapes.

Tidal power can be advantageous for island areas, allowing you to generate a considerable amount of energy. Additionally, the tidal barrages used can have multi purposes, such as doubling as a bridge or flood prevention. On the down side, barrages are expensive to construct, and estuaries are rarely suitable. Tidal systems could lower tidal flow and block the flow of sewage out to sea. Some environmental groups have suggested tidal power negatively impacts wildlife.

Wave technology, like tidal power, is ideal for island countries. But like tidal systems, the construction can be costly and these types of system can face opposition from local environmental groups.

Geothermal energy potentially offers an infinite energy supply, but it's only suitable for countries like Iceland and New Zealand where there's volcanic activity. These systems can be expensive to establish, and there's the risk of geothermal and volcanic activity reducing. Another potential downside is the generation process can bring up dangerous substances that need to be carefully disposed of.

Hydrological power can be advantageous as it allows you to generate power while creating water reserves. However, these systems are costly to construct and they could cause flooding in surrounding areas and affect local communities, as they have a major impact on natural hydrological systems.

Biomass is inexpensive and widely available. Where crops are re-planted, it can be a sustainable, long-term source of energy. However, on the negative side, biomass is burned in the energy-generation process and so it emits pollutants, including greenhouse gases.

Wood is also inexpensive and widely available, and like biomass, it can be sustainable for the long-term if trees are re-planted at an adequate rate. However, like biomass it leads to atmospheric pollutants since it's burned to generate energy.

What country has the most wind power?

China is the number one wind-power producer in the world, installing in 2015 more additional wind power capacity than the European Union combined. China accounts for a staggering 33.6% of all the win power generated around the world. Wind energy is suitable for China, given the country's long coastline and expansive geographical mass. China's strong wind-generation capacity is supported by its numerous turbine manufacturers.

The United States is second to China in wind, and Iowa, Minnesota, and Texas are among the top wind-generating states. Trailing China and the United States is Germany, with 10% of world production, and then Spain and India. Other notable wind-power countries include the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, and Brazil.

What are the pros and cons of wind energy?

Wind is a clean, potentially infinite in supply over the long term, and comparatively cheap, with decreasing costs once the wind farm is established. Unlike some other renewables, such as biomass, the generation process doesn't lead to pollutants and greenhouse gases. Additionally, wind doesn't need to be mined, fracked, or extracted, so it's truly a clean energy.

However, wind can come at a cost for local communities. Wind turbines and wind farms take up a significant amount of space, and they can mean both noise and visual pollution for the local community. Another potential drawback of wind is wind supply can vary throughout any given time period, so generation might not be as reliable as expected unless the farm's located in a very windy area. Finally, wind farms can impact local wildlife, with birds and bats being caught in the turbines.

You can do your bit too

If all this clean green energy talk has made you feel like you want to do more for the environment yourself, we’re here to help at Click Energy. Energy efficiency is about lots of little steps adding up to big ones and we want to encourage you in every way we can.

And the best way we can do that is by making your energy costs more affordable. If you drive an electric vehicle for example, we have a plan for you called Click EV, which provides lower energy usage rates. And if you have solar panels on your roof, we offer a choice of solar energy plans, with discounts on both usage and supply. Find out more or get in touch today.