No, Costa Rica did not run on renewable energy for 300 days

Last week a news story was published based on a claim by the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) that the country’s electricity needs were serviced entirely by renewable energy for 300 days. The country claimed it had exceeded the 250 day period it achieved last year. In light of this, fossil fuel companies should just throw in the towel and countries should convert to wind, solar and hydroelectric energy sources, right? Not exactly.

An article published by the UK Guardian in January discussing Costa Rica’s 2016 results tells a different story. According to the Guardian:

The country uses a mix of hydro, wind and geothermal to power the homes of its 4.9 million people, but because of its gasoline-dependent transportation sector, renewables make up less than a quarter of the nation’s total energy use.

According to Costa Rica’s State of the Region report, the country has approximately 287 cars per 1,000 people, surpassing both the world and Latin American average.

Hybrids and electric cars that can feed off the renewable electricity grid make up less than 2% of those vehicles, and according to the national oil refinery, gas purchases increased by 11% in 2016.

While Costa Rica committed itself to implementing renewables, even with these stellar claims face harsh realities. What is not taken into account is Costa Rica’s transportation system. That means renewable energy sources overall only make up a fraction of the nation’s total energy use.

In addition to increased gas demand resulting from more Costa Ricans preferring their own automobles, there are also two large cement plants that burn coal and petroleum coke. The two facilities add tremendously to carbon dioxide levels, and many houses still burn wood for heat. Most of Costa Rica’s energy production actually comes from hydroelectric sources but even they have pollution issues too and are limited by the amount of rainfall. If there is a drought, like what happened in 2014, then fossil fuel power sources kick in.

The news story being pitched should be admiring Costa Rica for its heightened industrialization and quality of life. Costa Ricans own more cars than ever and that enhances people’s lives in terms of transportation needs such as getting to work. Instead, praise is heaped on Costa Rica’s usage of wind, hydroelectric and geothermal power sources that do little to service the nation’s energy needs while help reinforce Costa Rican politico’s virtue signaling.