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Uruguay Shows How Clean Energy Can Be Good Business

Uruguay is aiming to use wind to generate around a third of its power needs by 2017. (Image:   Ignorant Walking via  flickr /  CC BY 2.0 )
Uruguay is aiming to use wind to generate around a third of its power needs by 2017. (Image: Ignorant Walking via flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

Uruguay is not often in the news, but now this remarkable South American nation of 3.4 million people has turned a few heads, thanks to its initiatives in renewable energy.

Within the space of a decade, Uruguay has managed to massively slash its carbon footprint.

Ramón Méndez, Uruguay’s head of climate change policy, says that renewable energy currently supports 94.5 percent of Uruguay’s electricity needs, reports The Guardian.

The use of hydropower, wind turbines, biomass, and solar power provide the various energy sources that have made this possible.

See this video from Wochit News for a quick summary of Uruguay’s energy turnaround:

Not that long ago, Uruguay used to import energy to meet its requirements, but now those tables have turned.

“We used to be reliant on electricity imports from Argentina, but now we export to them. Last summer, we sold a third of our power generation to them,” Méndez said.

Moreover, Uruguay’s drive to rely on clean energy has been done without government subsidies or affecting consumers.

“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low; so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is very attractive.”

Méndez attributes the country’s success to “clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment, and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.”

Investment

Energy investment in the country is currently at almost $7 billion, equivalent to 15 percent of the country’s GDP. An estimated $2.6 billion investment in wind power technology is expected to triple Uruguay’s wind generation capabilities, reports Bloomberg.

The country aims to generate up to 38 percent of its power from wind by 2017. This would place Uruguay just behind Denmark, which is the global leader in utilizing wind power generation. The Danes got 43 percent of their energy needs from wind turbines last year.

The use of wind turbines is attractive due to their low operating costs, and because they are a back-up source of energy when drought periods affect hydroelectric dams.

See how wind turbines work in this video by Learn Engineering:

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