Top 10: Nations that are leading the renewable energy charge

In a bid to combat climate change, countries are racing to build renewable energy infrastructure. There is a long way to go but some are pushing ahead.

Countries are racing to help mitigate climate change by committing to a low-carbon future. One of the many ways is by welcoming solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewables into their energy mix. Below are the countries that lead the world in terms of renewable energy.

To address this topic in terms of a hard ranking is not fair. There are so many factors at play - including geographical advantage, political considerations, size, incumbent fuels, resources, reserves, rate of development, and access to technology or expertise - that placing one above the other is largely meaningless. There is also an argument that since overall adoption of renewable energy is low compared to what some feel it should be, handing out credit seems inappropriate. 

However, to understand the sector a little more and how it breaks down globally, here are, in no particular order, the Top 10 countries making moves in renewable energy.

10: Sweden

The Swedish government vowed in 2015 to eliminate fossil fuels from electricity generation in the country by 2040. Since then, Sweden has been continuously investing in solar, wind, energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport. Sweden is aiming to be the first fossil fuel-free country in the world.

According to the country's official site, about 75% of electricity production in Sweden "comes from hydroelectric (45%) and nuclear (30%) power". There are currently three nuclear plants with six nuclear reactors operating in the country. Wind power contributes to energy production by 17%, while combined heat and power (CHP) plants contribute by 8%.

09: Costa Rica

Central American country Costa Rica gets all of its power from green source. Since 2014, Costa Rica has been producing more than 98% of its electricity from hydro, geothermal, solar and wind. 67.5% of the energy comes from hydropower, 17% from wind, 13.5% from geothermal sources, and 0.84% from biomass and solar panels. Backup plants, on the other hand, produce the remaining 1.16%.

08: Nicaragua

Costa Rica's northern neighbour, Nicaragua, may just reach a 98.5% electrification in December 2020, with over 1.23 million homes electrified. However, it should be noted that renewable energy sources account for 75.2% of its electricity production in the same year, an increase from 60% in 2019 and 26% in 2006. The largest contributor was geothermal at 21%, followed by wind at 16%, hydro at 15%, biomass at 14%, and solar at 0.6%. Additionally, imports of renewables made up almost one-third of its energy consumption.

07: Scotland

In 2018, 98% of energy output in Scotland came from wind power. Scotland then went on to consume 90.1% of its electricity needs from renewables in 2019. While the target was 100%, Scotland's renewable energy production dropped a little to 97.4%. Most of the renewable energy output is wind power.

06: Germany

Germany has always been a leading country for green energy consumption. By 2020, renewables were already providing 45.3% of its electricity consumption. The current government previously announced plans to cut its emissions further and later made another announcement that they rejected the European Union's plans to label nuclear energy "green" because it is "dangerous". The country is on its way to shutting down its remaining three nuclear power plants by the end of this year.

05: Uruguay

Uruguay is the South American champion of renewable energy, having over 97% of its country powered by green sources in 2018. 60% of its energy production comes from hydropower, while the rest comes from wind, solar, and biofuels. In 2020, Uruguay's total installed capacity was 4,924MW, in which Hydroelectric plants contributed 1,538MW, wind power 1,514MW, thermoelectric 1,190MW, biomass 425MW, and solar plants 258MW.

04: Denmark

In 2021, renewable energy sources contributed to 67% of the electricity supply in the country, with wind energy contributing 46.8% and biomass contributing 11.2%. The country aims to be 100% fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

03: China

Despite being the world's largest carbon emitter, China is also a leading country in terms of renewable energy. In 2017, China was the country with the most solar PV and wind capacity installed. China also produces more than 70% of the global solar PV module supply. According to IHA, China is the leading producer of hydroelectricity with an installed capacity of 370,160 MW in 2020. In the same year, it also added 71.67 GW of wind power capacity, nearly three times more than 2019's levels.

Back in September 2020, Xi Jinping-led China vowed to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. China is also committed to generating 35% of its electricity from renewables by 2030 in addition to cleaning up its polluted air. 

02: Morocco

Morocco is one of the countries that is affected the most by climate change as it sits in a warming hotspot. Back in 2009, the country vowed to make 42% of its electricity be produced by renewables by 2020, which it failed to achieve. That being said, Morocco still managed to produce 37% of its electricity from renewable resources. Since then, the Moroccan government has announced that the country would aim to increase renewables in its electricity production by up to 52% by 2030. The 52% target comprises 20% solar power, 20% wind power, and 12% wind power.

01: United States of America

Renewable energy holds the fastest-growing energy source status in the US, with an increase of 42% from 2010 to 2020 or 90% from 2000. In 2020, renewable energy sources constituted almost 20% of the country's electricity generation, 7.3% of which came from hydropower and 8.4% from wind power. Meanwhile, solar energy contributed 3.3% to US electricity generation in the same year. It was also its fastest-growing renewable energy source. In total, an additional 256 GW of renewable power capacity was introduced in 2020 in the US.

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