The country continues to produce more than 99% of its electrical energy from renewables for a third year in a row
In 2007, the Costa Rican government set a goal for the country to become carbon neutral by 2021. The target seems achievable, as the tropical climate with the heavy rainfalls, the mountainous inland and the relatively small population of 4.8 million, give the country a comparative advantage in the exploitation of renewables. Moreover, back in 2004, 47% of energy production was already based on them. The last two years, the nation managed to produce 99% of its electricity from renewables, and the first trimester of 2016, this figure remained at 97%. Hydroelectric power plants generated 66% or the total energy, whereas wind farms contributed 16%, geothermal 14%, biomass 2% and solar 0.02%. Power companies used thermal plants to generate just under 3% of the country’s electricity needs during this period.
Costa Rica’s high concentration per capita of rivers and dams along with the frequent rainfalls result in approximately 80% of the electricity being produced by hydropower. Apart from hydro, the electricity matrix also consists of wind, geothermal (due to the active volcanoes), biomass and solar (sources). The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) now considers fossil fuels only as a backup energy generation source. However, water is considered an insecure resource at this high a percentage of the power mix and large scale hydropower can also have a negative impact on the environment and local communities. That’s why Costa Rica should diversify its renewable electricity system and further focus on sustainable technologies, such as solar, small wind turbines, and biogas from organic waste. To this direction is the new program launched last April that allows consumers who install solar panels or other renewable generation systems to store their surplus power in the national grid.
It is worth mentioning that Costa Rica has limited heavy industry, and its economy is mainly based on tourism, agriculture (mostly coffee and banana) and a production plant of Intel making microprocessors. Also, the crude oil deposits that have been found remain untouched, in order to not change the energy policy and pollute the environment.