Uruguay, a South American country known for its verdant interior and beach-lined coast, is now famous for making a dramatic shift to produce nearly 95% electricity from clean energy according to the country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez.
Uraguay, with a population of 3.407 million, has made some impressive strides in the last decade on the environmental front by drastically reducing its carbon footprint in less than 10 years. This reduction is also responsible for lowering electricity costs without government subsidies or higher consumer costs. The prices for electricity generation has been reduced by more than 30% since the renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity. Ramón Méndez, further says that Uruguay used to be reliant on electricity imports from Argentina, but last summer Uruguay sold a third of their power generation to Argentina.
This was not the result of any technological miracles, and no new hydroelectric power or nuclear power has been added for more than two decades. The success for this program has been due to accurate decision-making along with good cooperation and strong partnership between the public and private sector. According to Méndez, 55% of the country’s overall energy mix is based on wind, solar, biomass and hydropower.
The world gathered in Paris making the task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy seem difficult to deal with, but this one small country on the other side of the Atlantic made it possible in less than ten years. It was a very different story just 15 years ago, but now it has been praised by the World Bank and the Economic commission for Latin America. Even WWF listed Uruguay among its “Green Energy Leaders”. Méndez also said, “We had to go through a crisis to reach this point.
We spent 15 years in a bad place, but in 2008, we launched a long-term energy policy that covered everything … Finally, we had clarity.”
Energy investment for liquid gas has also surged along with renewables to $7 billion dollars, or 15% of the country’s annual GDP. According to climate economist, Nicholas Stern, this increase in investment is more than three times the global share and five times the average in Latin America. Ramón Méndez says, “For three years we haven’t imported a single kilowatt hour,”.
Credibility, helpful natural conditions, and strong public companies were mentioned as the three key factors behind Uruguay’s success, says Méndez. Uruguay hopes to be carbon neutral by 2030. Wind turbines are the biggest item on import balance sheet along with three agroindustrial plants running on bio-fuel. There are also plans for three wind farms with huge turbines – each 108 meters tall, resulting in foreign firms lining up to secure wind-farm contracts.
Méndez, further added that, “renewable’s can reduce generation costs, can meet well over 90 percent of electricity demand without the back-up of coal or nuclear power plants, and the public and private sectors can work together effectively in this field,” While not every country in the world can replicate this model, the importance of strong decision-making shown by Uruguay must be noted by delegates in Paris.
Source: The Guardian