Environment

5 Countries Leading the Way to a Fossil Fuel-Free Future

Oil and gas companies would like you to think otherwise, but it is possible to thrive economically without dirty fuel.

Photo Credit: majeczka/Shutterstock.com

A decade ago, the renewable energy movement faced an uphill battle. Today, environmentally-minded nations of the world increasingly embrace alternative energy sources. These countries now lead the way toward a future free of petroleum and dirty energy. In the process, they save significant amounts of money on national energy costs while preserving and protecting the world’s natural resources.

Despite powerful corporate disinformation campaigns meant to convince populations that renewable energy is not a viable way to satisfy the needs of global industry, the following five nations aren’t just subsisting on renewable energy — they are thriving on it.

Costa Rica

Since the start of 2015, Costa Rica has gone 100 percent green. This move away from fossil fuels will help ensure that lush jungles and pristine beaches remain intact. The comprehensive shift will help Costa Ricans not only save their natural resources, but ensure that the country continues to benefit from its very profitable eco-tourism industry, though they would be wise to be vigilant of the effects of tourism on local ecosystems.

A hydroelectric dam Costa Rica. This spring, the country set a new renewable energy record after an extended period of heavy rainfall, which helped hydroelectric power plants provide energy for a population of 4.8 million for 75 days in a row. No fossil fuels have been burnt in the country since December 2014. (image: BBHS Eco)

One of Costa Rica’s renewable efforts involves utilizing its own plentiful rainfall to power their growing hydroelectric infrastructure. Incredibly, the small country has the second best electric infrastructure in Latin America. Yet, it has not put all its eggs in one basket — Costa Rica is also generating power from geothermal sources, wind, biomass and solar energy products.

Denmark

Denmark knows a thing or two about windmills, which have peppered their countryside for decades. In fact, the nation installed its first wind turbines as far back as the 1970s and has not let up in recent years. Denmark is now the leading country in the world for wind power. In the year 2014, Denmark set a world record for windmill production. The country now enjoys around 40 percent of its total electricity from this one clean energy source, alone.

For more than 40 years, the waters of the Danish port town Esbjerg have been the center of the nation's offshore oil and gas industry. But for more than a decade, Esbjerg's new offshore activity is wind. (image: Denmark.dk)

New studies show that Denmark is well on its way to meeting its self-set goal of being 50 percent powered by renewable resources by 2020. Not happy with half, Denmark hopes to be 100 percent renewable by 2050. This would make it one of the first advanced countries in the word to be 100 percent renewable. It’s an ambitious goal, but Denmark’s recent success proves they are up to the task. Just this month, the nation celebrated a day in which it drew 140 percent of its electrical power from wind turbines.

Scotland

2014 was a very good year for Scotland and renewables. In one month of December 2014, Scotland set a personal record in renewable energy. Using wind power alone, Scotland provided almost 1300 MWh (megawatt-hours) to its growing national grid. That’s enough energy to supply almost 4 million homes with electricity.

Sites and identified areas for wave, tidal and offshore wind energy and infrastructure sites in Scotland, as of 2011. Scotland is ranked 6th in the United Kingdom for large wind turbines with a market value of £304 million ($474 million), which is 7.9 percent of the U.K.'s market value. (image: Scottish Government)

Scotland is now using wind power to produce and supply almost 100 percent of the country’s household needs, but it has not stopped there. During the summer months, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness harvested enough solar energy to power 100 percent or more of the electric demands for the average home.

Scotland has also invested large amounts of money into creating one of the most advanced computer-driven energy infrastructures in the world.

Sweden

Sweden is joining its Nordic neighbor, Denmark, and doubling down on green with a limited-coal approach that has been so successful the IEA, or International Energy Agency, commended the country for its new energy policies. But Sweden is not content relying on limited coal alone — the country is also developing advanced biomass energy systems.

Biomass, like these wood pellets, contains stored energy because plants absorb energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis. When biomass is burned, this stored energy is released as heat. (image: Minerva Studio/Shutterstock.com)

This strategy has been so successful that by 2010, Sweden was already producing more energy from biomass than from fossil fuels. Steps like these are putting Sweden high on the list of green countries.

Finland

It seems like Finland is not happy playing second fiddle to its northern neighbors. Wind powered energy is quickly transforming the country’s energy needs. These recent steps have dramatically reduced the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, caused from the burning of fossil fuels.

Kuivamatala island and wind power generators, Kuivaniemi, Ii municipality, Finland. Wind power is the most popular energy resource among Finnish public: A 2007 poll found that 90 percent of Finns would want further investments in wind energy. (image: Teemu Vehkaoja/Wikimedia Commons)

Finland is not as far along as Sweden and Denmark when it comes to renewable energy, but it is quickly moving in the right direction. By the year 2012,  was already producing enough energy to cover almost 34.3 percent of the energy needs and by 2020, it hopes to be closer to 40 percent. With its neighbors leading the way, the future looks bright for Finland.

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Jake Anderson is a writer, journalist and filmmaker. He writes for Anti-Media and runs the corporate watchdog site EvilCorps.com.

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