With so much media coverage and political debate on the need to reduce our use of fossil fuels, you’d think there must be some very difficult decisions to make, or some very complex new technology required, because for all the talk there doesn’t seem to be much change.
Would it surprise you to learn that there are already eight places in the world with major electricity systems which use almost no fossil fuels?
They have shown us all that it isn’t difficult to power countries using other means. Some of these eight have been like that for decades.
The one characteristic that all these places have in common is their reliance on hydroelectric dams and/or nuclear power, coupled with some wind and solar. That’s because countries need power all day and all night, and hydro and nuclear can deliver that constant supply.
It’s not difficult, and it’s been done before, eight times. To see how your country measures up you can go to the same place I got my information from, the statistics page at the International Energy Agency.
For those who are interested in numbers, I got all the national data from the IEA link above. Canadian province data is from the National Energy Board. In all cases the data is 2016. I defined “large electricity system” as more than 50 TWh per year. The eight examples range from Switzerland (63 TWh) to France (556 TWh). Between the eight, their electricity is 47% hydro, 41% nuclear, 4% wind, 1% solar and 7% fossil fuel.
There are several smaller countries which also have very clean electricity systems, in fact that’s where I started with this little project. I saw a video from Greenpeace claiming seven countries were running on 100% renewables. The problem was that the video showed cartoons of wind turbines and solar cells, but when I looked at the facts all seven used hydro power, and because they are quite small, they are able to power the whole country with a single technology. (The video only shows national flags for the seven – perhaps to make it difficult to look up the data? But I am naturally curious, and I love looking up flags, so I learned that this other group includes: Bhutan, Nepal, Costa Rica, Albania, Iceland, Ethiopia and Lesotho).
The Greenpeace video challenges the rest of the world to copy the example of those seven small countries. I suppose my diagram at the top of the page has the same message. It’s worth adding that in my home province of Ontario, hydro and nuclear power represent the two cheapest sources of electricity, half the price of wind and a fraction of our natural gas or solar power.
We know how to do this.