11 countries leading the charge on renewable energy

16.02.16 By

This article was originally published on Climate Reality Project.

Countries all around the world are powering towards a low-carbon future by embracing solar, wind and geothermal energy. Read on to find out which countries are leading the charge.


In 2015, Sweden threw down the gauntlet with an ambitious goal: eliminating fossil fuel usage within its borders, and immediately ramping up investment in solar, wind, energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport. And the best part? The Swedes are challenging everyone else to join them in a race to become the first 100% renewable country. Now that’s a competition where everyone wins!


Thanks to its unique geography and commitment to environmental preservation, small but mighty Costa Rica meets a huge amount of its energy needs (99% in 2015!) using hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, and other low-carbon sources. Next on the horizon: Costa Rica aims to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2021.


Nicaragua saw renewables comprise up to 54% of all electricity production in June 2015. How’d they do it? In 2007, the then-president began emphasizing renewable energy investments. By 2012, Nicaragua invested the fifth-highest percentage worldwide of its GDP in developing renewable energy. Next on the to-do list: The country is aiming for 90% renewables by 2020, with the majority of energy coming from wind, solar, and geothermal sources.


Great Scot! The answer to Scotland’s energy needs is blowing in the wind. In 2015, wind power produced the equivalent of 97% of the country’s household electricity needs.


Germany leads the world in solar PV capacity and has even been able to meet as much of 78% of a day’s electricity demand from renewables. For a relatively cloudy country of over 80 million people, Germany is looking forward to a seriously bright future with solar energy!


Uruguay is now 95% powered by renewables after less than 10 years of concerted effort. The country invested heavily in wind and solar with no subsidies or increases in consumer costs. The secret? “Clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment, and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.”


Denmark got 42% of its electricity from wind turbines in 2015 – a new world record! Even with two wind farms offline, that’s the highest percentage of wind power ever achieved worldwide. The country aims to be 100% fossil-fuel-free by 2050.


Wondering how the world’s largest carbon emitter can also be a leader in renewable energy? It may seem counter-intuitive, but in 2014 China had the most installed wind energy capacity – by a longshot – and the second-highest installed solar PV capacity. China has also committed to phasing out coal and cleaning up its polluted air.


With ample sun, Morocco decided to go big. Bigger than anyone else in the world, in fact. The largest concentrated solar plant on earth recently opened its first phase in Morocco. With its accompanying wind and hydro plants, the mega-project will provide half of Morocco’s electricity by 2020.


In the US, a new solar energy system was installed every two minutes and 30 seconds in 2014, earning the US fifth place on the installed solar PV capacity global rankings. America also has the second-highest installed wind energy capacity in the world after China.


Kenya believe it? This country is looking to geothermal energy to power its future and reduce reliance on costly electricity imports. As of 2015, geothermal accounted for 51% of Kenya’s energy mix – up from only 13% in 2010. Kenya’s also betting big on wind, with Africa’s largest wind farm (310 MW) set to provide another 20% of the country’s installed electricity generating capacity.


One common theme among all these success stories is that when leaders actively set ambitious goals for renewable energy generation and support them with investments, growth comes fast. The second lesson: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to making the switch. Some countries, like Kenya, have ample geothermal and can ramp up fast. Others, like Denmark, have been steadily improving their wind power generation for decades. Still others, like Morocco, are betting big on solar while planning for backup from other renewables.

You can read more on the Climate Reality Project website.