The following nations have, at one point or another, broken global records in renewable energy use, production or technology development.
Megan Ray Nichols | Schooled By Science
The demand for innovation and production of clean, renewable sources of electricity generation is always growing. The global capacity for and total production of energy generated by renewable sources has increased steadily for the past few years, and the topic of combating climate change is on the forefront of global conversation. In 2015, 195 nations gathered in Paris and agreed to commit to lowering greenhouse gas emissions in a historic agreement.
Many countries have already made big moves toward this goal, and some have already been at it for years. The following nations have, at one point or another, broken global records in renewable energy use, production or technology development.
Uruguay has drastically lowered its carbon footprint in the last decade, and along with it has lowered prices for consumers. This record is one of pure ambition – in 2015 Uruguay’s leadership pledged to cut the country’s carbon emissions 88 percent by 2017, which is a loftier goal than any other country. Uruguay seems well on its way to achieving its goal – it currently gets 94.5 percent of its electric power from a mix of hydropower, wind, biomass and solar energy sources.
Statistically the happiest country in the world, Denmark has long been a champion of renewable energy – particularly onshore wind, now the cheapest form of energy in the country. Back in the 1970s it began installing wind turbines, and by 2014, the country was the world record holder in wind production. That year, wind generated 39.1 percent of Denmark’s overall electricity. At this rate, it will have no problem hitting 50 percent power from renewables by its goal of 2020, which it hopes to follow up with a truly amazing goal of 100 percent by 2050.
Costa Rica had an amazing year in 2015: 99 percent of the energy it produced last year came in the form of renewables. Not only that, but the tiny, developing nation in Central America went a full 285 days without using fossil fuels for energy generation. It also achieved a record 94 straight days without fossil fuel energy. The nation currently plans to be completely carbon neutral by next decade.
Iceland is a land of geological extremes, including being home to 44 volcanoes. Because of this, geothermal energy rules Iceland’s energy landscape, accounting for 95 percent of the nation’s heating needs. All of the country’s electrical energy is produced by both geothermal and hydroelectric generators, and it holds the record for being the largest green energy producer per capita.
Ireland had a very windy 2015, and two wind energy records were set in the country during that time. EirGrid, Ireland’s state-owned electric power transmission operator, recorded that on Jan. 7 of that year, wind had generated 1,942 MW, a record amount of energy that could power at least 1.26 million homes. This came only a week after the record had been set on the first day of the year at 1,872 MW.
Europe’s largest economy has shown an increased interest in renewable energy in recent years. Germany set a national record for meeting 78 percent of a full day’s energy needs with renewable energy in 2014. Not only that, but it employed a variety of sources to achieve this feat. Wind, solar, hydropower and biomass all factored in. In 2014, almost 26 percent of German energy generation was from renewable sources.
China is often in the news for air pollution, and holds the record for being the largest carbon emitter in 2015, but that’s not why it made this list. The world’s most populous country was also 2015’s largest investor in clean energy at $110.5 billion. China is moving away from coal-fired plants and leading the charge in a lot of ways when it comes to renewable energy, especially from hydroelectricity. It’s also home to one-third of the world’s wind turbines.
The United States may not be the world’s largest producer of renewable energy, but it still makes the list because of its energy consumption. As of 2015, no country consumed more energy produced by renewable sources than the U.S., which used 65 million tonnes of oil-equivalent thermal units.
The U.K. first set the record for wind power generation in 2014, increasing generation from 24.5 terawatt-hours (TWh) to 28.1 TWh, which is more than any previous year. It now generates enough electricity from wind power that it is able to power 6.7 households with their electricity needs.
Scotland experienced several record months in 2014, a big year for renewable energy in the country. Last year wind turbines in Scotland were able to generate roughly enough power for 164 percent of Scottish homes. The country’s power grid could be 100 percent renewable by 2030.
As renewable energy continues to become more efficient and affordable and as more countries get serious and crack down on carbon emissions and the effects greenhouse gases have on climate change, renewable energy records are likely to continue to be shattered. Hopefully the future continues to move in a green direction.
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