At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Paris this past November and December, Uruguay made quite an environmentally and economically friendly statement. The South American nation announced that it receives 94.5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources including wind and solar. Furthermore, they’ve managed to make ends meet without utilizing government subsidies, or even affecting consumers’ wallets by raising prices.
There are a lot of reasons why people have a hard time doing things that are better for the earth and their health. From buying organic food to opting out of using fossil fuels, one of the biggest excuses is that the cost keeps them incapable of making the better choice. But this can’t be so for the 3.4 million residents of Uruguay, because the electricity prices are at an all-time low.
The naysayers might wonder about how technology or investment might play a part — two things larger economies have a hard time fathoming — but the South American country was able to make this shift without implementing any drastic measures. Of the process, Ramón Méndez, who is the National Director of Energy, explained at the conference that the components involved are simple: “clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.” He continued to say that, by giving investors a secure environment, maintenance and construction costs stay low.
The formula sounds simple, and seemingly attractive. It was also achieved in just 10 years. In order to improve their carbon footprint, the windy country implemented more and more wind farms, providing foreign investors an inviting fixed state utility price over a 20-year period. Companies are lining up for it, no doubt. The country now utilizes wind energy as their main source of electricity.
The formula has permitted a great mix of renewables. Along with wind, they also utilize solar, biomass, and hydropower. The low-carbon package makes up 55 percent of Uruguay’s energy, including transportation fuel. Globally speaking, renewables make up a mere 12 percent.
Also announced at the summit was Uruguay’s pledge to slash carbon emission by a whopping 88 percent in just two years. Méndez has set his goals high, but why not? Our entire world continues to experience the repercussions of our detrimental carbon footprint, and Uruguay is simply trying to reduce their part. It’s also a financially sound system, giving countries all over the world even more reason to listen up. “For three years we haven’t imported a single kilowatt hour,” Méndez explained. “We used to be reliant on electricity imports from Argentina, but now we export to them. Last summer, we sold a third of our power generation to them.”
This isn’t to say that things are running perfectly in the country, however. The fact is, not all sectors of Uruguay rely heavily on renewable sources. In terms of transportation, oil still reigns king, accounting for 45 percent of the total energy mix. Nonetheless, the country’s motivation and actions have implemented positive changes, and should, if anything, inspire the rest of the world to listen up and find new, planet-friendly formulas too.