By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
The world climate conference in Paris hopes to move global energy from fossil fuel to renewable energy, but one country in South America has already achieved this aim.
In under a decade, Uruguay has manage to combat its carbon footprint without the need for government subsidies or rising costs to the general population.
Uruguay uses renewable energy to provide 94.5% of their electricity and prices are now lower. As if that wasn’t enough good news, there are now fewer power cuts, due to the variety of energy sources.
Just 15 years ago, oil accounted for over 27% of the country’s imports and a pipeline was supplying gas from neighbour Argentina. Now their biggest import is wind turbines.
If hydropower, biomass and solar power are also thrown into the mix, renewables now account for 55% of energy mix, the global average is 12%.
It has to be said that it is a relatively small country (3.4 million) in terms of population, but it is still a fantastic achievement, gaining praise from the World Bank and the Economic commission for Latin America, who said: “The country is defining global trends in renewable energy investment.”
George Osborne should take note, nuclear power is not part of their energy offering. investment, mainly for renewables, over the last five years has surged to seven billion dollars, 15% of GDP.
Uruguay’s government agreed on a long-term energy plan, luckily during that time they also had a stable democracy, beneficial natural environment and credible public companies. Not all countries have all or even one of these factors, but it shows it can be done with a joined-up approach.
Reliance on fossil fuels from the Middle East is becoming increasingly fraught and the damage to the global environment is evident. Perhaps it is time to realise the UK is an island that can harness so much renewable energy. Surely a proud nation that can stand on its own two feet, and power itself, could appeal to people the left and the right on the political spectrum.
Other small nations leading the way
Iceland has the advantage of being a nation of volcanoes, which has allowed it to tap geothermal sources of 85% of its heating and – with the assistance of hydropower – 100% of its electricity. This has made it the world’s largest green energy producer per capita.
Costa Rica went a record 94 consecutive days earlier this year without using fossil fuel for electricity, thanks to a mix of about 78% hydropower, 12% geothermal and 10% wind. The government has set a target of 100% renewable energy by 2021. But transport remains dirty.
Lesotho gets 100% of its electricity from a cascade of dams that have enough spare capacity to export power to South Africa.
Paraguay has one huge hydropower dam at Itaipu, which supplies 90% of the country’s electricity.
Bhutan’s abundant hydropower resources generate a surplus of electricity that accounts for more than 40% of the country’s export earnings. But over-reliance on one source can be a problem. In the dry season, it has to import power from India.