As the two-week United Nations conference on climate change continues, there’s a country that the world should be paying attention: Uruguay. According to Ramón Méndez, the nation’s head of climate policy, renewable energy is responsible for 94.5% of the country’s electricity.
That’s right, the country that only 15 years ago marked century oil as 27% of its imports is now being hailed by the World Wide Fund for Nature as “the country [that] is defining global trends in renewable energy investment.”
Uruguay’s dramatic evolution seems like a western fantasy, because it was done without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, along with no nuclear power, no dynamic tech innovation, and no recently built hydroelectric power stations (nothing new on that front for more than 20 years, actually).
Instead, to Méndez, it’s just a matter of good business.
“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business. The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”
Renewables—wind turbines, hydropower, biomass, solar power—make up 55% of the country’s total energy. Put that up against the global average of 12%. This week, though, Méndez made the ambitious pledge to see through an 88% carbon emissions cut by 2017, compared with the average for 2009-2013.