Make Wealth History

Countries with 100% renewable energy

Cahora Basso, Mozambique

Which countries have the highest percentage of renewable energy – care to guess? I suspect that names like Germany, Denmark or Spain might spring to mind. They’re certainly making good progress, but they’ve got nothing on the world’s renewable energy leaders. There are countries in the world powered entirely by renewable energy, and some that are even net exporters of green electricity.

These pioneers are overlooked for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they’re out of the way places. Agencies tracking the progress of renewable energy often focus on the OECD countries or the G20 and forget to look elsewhere (like this). Sometimes they have patchy data and are omitted from research.

Most often its a matter of categorisation – what is and what isn’t considered renewable energy. Hydroelectric and geothermal electricity generation are frequently listed separately from solar, wind and tidal energy, even though they are technically renewable too. There are various reasons for this. A large dam might be clean energy, but disastrous for the environment in other ways. If it runs off melting ice, a dam could be renewable but not actually sustainable in practice in the long term.

Others simply leave hydro and geothermal out because they’re older technologies, and including them in renewable energy statistics might make people complacent about their percentages. This categorisation issue is actually quite a problem. US States each decide independently whether they will count hydropower as renewable or not, which rather confuses national energy targets.

Still, taking that broader perspective, here are some forgotten pioneers of the renewable energy world:

I could also mention Costa Rica, Laos, Colombia, Malawi, Nepal, Belize, and a dozen others. Many African countries, with small domestic consumption, have renewable energy percentages to shame the G20. I don’t mention these examples because I necessarily recommend their approach or endorse the projects concerned. Some of them are controversial, others have been badly managed or are rife with corruption. Besides, not everyone has a big river they can dam, or mountain regions that can support hydropower systems.

I mention them because I keep reading news articles mentioning the world leaders in renewable energy, and naming Germany, Denmark and Spain. And I keep hearing people dismissing ‘renewable energy’ as unworkable, and then only talking about onshore wind and solar PV. Truth is, these countries are simply the pioneers. If energy commentators like Chris Goodall have got it right, every country will be 100% solar in a few decades time.