The world might seem like a very dark place when it comes to political strife, but one area in which things are looking decidedly bright is the global move toward using renewable energy.
All around the world, communities are sprouting up that are running on clean energy. In parts of Australia, the US, and Europe, renewable energy is even flooding the market to the effect of negative energy prices, meaning on bright, windy days renewable energy sources are able to produce enough that there’s little to no demand for consumables.
While this is definitely a world-wide trend, there are some particular bright spots that serve as great inspiration for how we can move forward as a people to a more sustainable globe. Here are five of the greenest communities out there, and how they do it!
Sweden has made enormous efforts in the past decades to transition to clean energy sources. In 1970, oil made up over 75% of Sweden’s energy sources, and now that’s down to just 20%, thanks to an extreme reduction in oil as fuel for residential heating. Over half of Sweden’s total energy consumption in 2016 was from renewable energy, which means it already hit its 2020 goal and is way ahead of the curve in terms of adoption of green energy practices. Furthermore, in 2015, Sweden stopped all plans for constructing nuclear power plants, and have made up the shortfall with increases in wind, solar, and hydro electricity generation.
2) Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland is proud of its capital city, Reykjavik, which could also be called the global green capital! 99% of the city’s electricity comes from hydro and geothermal power, and 80% of total energy consumption comes from sustainable sources, making it the most sustainable city in the world. And they’re not stopping there, the Icelandic government has declared their imperative to become the first country to use only sustainable power sources, and they have a plan in place in reach total carbon neutrality by 2040. This little nation may be blessed with abundant geo-thermal resources not available elsewhere, but they are still an inspiration for the rest of the world to keep up.
Scotland is making the most of its weather and putting the elements to work. In 2015, wind power alone produced enough energy to meet 97% of Scotland’s household electricity needs. And this demonstrates an upward trend – up 16% from the previous year. Their plans rival Iceland’s, with a call by the local World Wildlife Fund to make Scotland the European Union’s first 100% renewable electricity nation by 2030. This is the kind of healthy competition we should all get behind.
4) Costa Rica
By 2015, Costa Rica was running 99% of its country on renewable electricity, about ¾ of which comes from hydropower, and the rest of which is generated by a mix of geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass sources. And Costa Rica broke their own record in 2017, using 100% renewable sources for electrical needs 300 days of the year by November. That said, it’s important to note that we’re only talking about electricity in these numbers, and oil is still a large source of Costa Rica’s other energy consumption, like heating.
5) Small towns in Maine, USA
It’s one thing when governments are in full support of going green, like the examples listed above. But what about communities that want to prioritize clean energy but don’t have legislative support behind them? Such is the case for several small towns in Maine, USA. Maine as a US state has done very little to encourage renewable energy. In fact, they’ve even created legislative stumbling blocks to limit green energy for aesthetic or political reasons. That’s why it’s so remarkable that so many towns are pushing forward with municipal renewable energy projects (25 to date), despite absence of state support. Lincolnville residents, for example, assembled 144 solar panels in a town field independently, which powers town buildings like fire stations and piers and public areas like sidewalk lighting. These Maine towns demonstrate what a small community can do even without national or even state-level encouragement.
We see from the first four stars on our list what enormous change can come about with the full support and determination of a government. Nations such as Germany and Spain, along with state and provincial-level governments in places such as California and South Australia have provided enormous levels of renewable investment support to kick start the renewable revolution. Entire nations can shift their energy sources on a massive scale relatively quickly, and this sets the stage for what is possible globally.
The desire for change is there among people, even in places where their representatives aren’t pushing as hard. For example, according to the Independent, 62% of British people surveyed said they’d like to install home solar panels, and 60% would install a home storage device if they had access to greater government assistance. In the USA, the emergence of Consumer Choice Aggregators has shown the willingness of citizens to take the lead in renewable energy sourcing.
Importantly, we also see a worldwide trend in reduction of renewable subsidies as the costs of wind and solar systems have fallen. This has led to Australians also taking green energy into their own hands. Not only are Aussies investing in rooftop solar in ever-increasing numbers, but innovative new business models are emerging that allow rooftop solar owners to sell or share their electricity directly into a local community or marketplace. A recent study found that 83% of Australians surveyed would switch energy retailers if it meant access to clean solar energy, and 80% of consumers would be interested in purchasing solar directly from other citizens who generate solar power at home.
And as the Maine and Australian communities show, the will of the people is paramount in making change, whether that be by voting in renewable-friendly representatives, or taking local and even neighborhood-based action to pursue sustainable energy practices at home. So, we can maintain hope that with green-friendly governments on one side, and the strong desire of the people on the other, the mass-adoption of renewable energy solutions and the strongly positive environmental and humanitarian impact that will bring about are on our horizon, and closer every day.