Greg S. Kowalski
Sustainability Studies student
When it comes to sustainability, Costa Rica seems to be at the forefront. They have many initiatives in place, some dating back a century, like their efforts to sustain their rainforests. I would like to address how they are sustainable when it comes to their energy production. Costa Rica obtains ninety percent of their energy through renewable resources, with a goal of reaching ninety five percent by the end of 2014, which makes them the world leader in renewable energy production according to the The Costa Rica Star. The majority of their renewable energy comes from hydroelectric generation, seventy six percent, followed by geothermal energy. Since Costa Rica has five active volcanoes, this may soon be the renewable energy of choice. According to Costa Rican law, the Costa Rica Electricity Institute or ICE, must produce energy using renewable resources (read more in Inside Costa Rica). ICE also uses biomass, solar, and wind energy sources and is one of the countries of Latin America with the most wind turbines.
When it comes to renewable resource energy, the supply is not always guaranteed. Costa Rica has two seasons, wet and dry, so as you might surmise, during the wet season their hydroelectric plants are churning along quite nicely but when the dry season hits or even worse a dry year, it is harder to supply power and therefore, the prices increase. Many Ticos, as native Costa Ricans call themselves, are willing to pay for this increase in order to keep their country’s carbon footprint small. I believe we here in the US could learn a thing or two from this example, since many of us are a lot better off financially than most Ticos. The other main source of energy comes in the form of geothermal energy, and ICE is constantly trying to find better ways to tap into the country’s vast amount of natural geothermal energy. The problem they are having is that many of the sites are located inside protected areas such as national parks, biological preserves, and conservation areas. Geothermal energy is not dependent on the weather, so whether it’s rainy or sunny, there is clean and safe energy all the time. Costa Rica is currently seeking methods and approval that will allow them to work on utilizing geothermal energy safely, while compensating the parks or preserves for what they are allowed to use. They are working toward finding minimally invasive ways to achieve their goals so that they may keep Costa Rica’s beautiful parks and preserves intact for many generations to come.