Small countries, big transitions

If you think the idea of shifting to 100% clean energy is still farfetched, think again. There are already countries that have virtually abandoned all fossil fuels. These are not necessarily the popular cases you usually read about, but they have shown the world that it is indeed possible to run a country without having to rely on fossil fuels.

Volcano Arenal Costa Rica

Costa Rico’s geography allows for geothermal power (Photo by Gotanero, edited, CC BY-SA 4.0)

One of the most notable countries when it comes to clean energy use is Costa Rica. This Central American republic is not just famous for being one of the most politically stable Latin American countries, it is also noteworthy for its energy policy. Costa Rica has been running on renewable energy since mid-2016. It uses hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, and wind energy in lieu of fossil fuels.

The island of Bonaire, a special municipality of the Netherlands off the coast of Venezuela, is another part of the world where sustainable energy prevails. It takes most of its energy needs from an array of wind generators that started operating in 2010, located on its northeastern coastline. Bonaire continues to develop more renewable energy sources including solar and biodiesel.

Tokelau, an island country and dependent territory of New Zealand, also takes much of its energy needs from a renewable source: the sun. Since October 2013, Tokelau has been using solar energy to address the needs of its approximately 1,500 residents. As announced by the Foreign Affairs minister of New Zealand, this island achieved its 100% clean energy status on November 2012 by relying only on solar power.

The smallest island of the Canary Islands, El Hierro claims to be the first island in the world to be electrically self-sufficient. The island’s Ministry of Industry, Tourism, and Commerce announced back in 2014 that it is set to become the first island to be using 100% renewable energy with the completion of its wind farm, photovoltaic, and hydroelectric projects. The clean energy generated by the island is also used to operate three water desalination facilities.

Samsø, a Danish island off Jutland Peninsula is likewise a good example of the success of renewable energy. Its population of 4,000 benefits from wind power and biomass energy (for heating). Its wind power comes from a total of 21 windmills, which provide 100% of the island’s electricity needs. Back in 1997, this island won a government contest to become a model renewable energy community. It used to be fully dependent on oil and coal but is now one of the leaders in clean power.

Portugal is another country that can serve as a good example for clean energy use. This country in Southwestern Europe’s Iberian Peninsula is notable for having significant wind, solar, and hydroelectric power resources. By May 2010, Portugal reported that 70% of its energy supply was derived from renewable sources. While the country has not declared yet to have become fully dependent on renewable energy, it’s worth noting that it ran using only clean energy for 4 straight days in May 2016. It shouldn’t take too long before this country becomes fully reliant on clean energy sources.

A lot of other countries are waking up to the fact that they need to make plans to ditch fossil fuels if they are to sustain their lifestyle and commerce. Laws, resolutions, and infrastructure are gradually being established by more and more communities. Perhaps it’s a bit late, and slow in coming, but it’s getting there. There is hope that we will see this transformation in how the whole world produces and consumes energy within the next generations.

We have prepared this infographic on countries that run on clean energy not only to promote renewable energy sources. One of the goals is also to exemplify the real potential of clean energy, to prove that it is really possible to totally abandon fossil fuels. The 100% shift to reliable renewable power is not impossible. It is, in fact, viable and Costa Rica is just one of the many countries that exist to prove it.


Jamie loves to travel, meeting new people, discovering new cultures, traditions, and tasting different foods. She’s in love with the beautiful country of Costa Rica and enjoys sharing her passion.


The "Energiewende Team" has an administrative function. We use this account to repost all the best articles about the global Energiewende from around the web.


  1. You left out Bhutan.

    It’s an odd mix politically. Costa Rica is not only stable but a democracy that abolished its army, without ill effects. Bhutan is an enlightened Buddhist constitutional monarchy. Bonaire, Tokelau and now Aruba are micro-colonies. Denmark anf Portugal are small advanced democracies.

    One major niggle. The article and infographic confuse energy and electricity. This is a serious mistake for a green energy blog. Remember: useful energy today is typically one-third electricity, one-third fossil fuel for transport, one-third fossil fuel for heating. The exact mix varies of course. SFIK no country in the world is near 100% renewable energy domestically. This requires not only fully renewable electricity, but the electrification of transport and (less some help from biogas and geothermal) heating. In addition, all countries are partly dependent on trade, and their imports embody others’ carbon emissions plus those from shipping and aviation. We need sober and honest accounting, see Wiedmann.

  2. Hans says

    “By May 2010, Portugal reported that 70% of its energy supply was derived from renewable sources.”

    The author probably means “70% of its electrical energy supply”

    Such sloppiness muddles discussions and provides ammunition for RE opponents.

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