The leaders in renewable energy today are the Nordic countries of Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark, and other European nations including Germany and Switzerland. Some of these countries have excellent geography or natural resources that make them ideal places for renewable power. Others have developed thriving green economies through ambitious policies. Iceland has been the world leader in the share of electricity produced via renewables, at a staggering 99 percent of capacity.
Iceland’s unique volcanic geology makes it an ideal place for geothermal power. It also receives a sizable source of electricity from hydroelectric plants that harvest the power of waves and rivers. From the mid-20th century, Icelandic development initiatives sought to take advantage of these virtually limitless resources. Since then, Iceland has become one of the richest countries in the world and is virtually peerless when it comes to green power development.
Sweden obtained 57 percent of its energy from renewables such as wind and hydroelectric in 2016. In 2003, the nation implemented a green certification scheme to encourage a transition to renewable energy, and hopes to completely abandon fossil fuels by 2040. Denmark has similar marks—obtaining about half of its power from clean sources— and has an especially robust wind generation capacity, owing to its location in the North Sea. Like Sweden, the Danes plan to give up fossil fuels—although by 2050 instead–and the state-owned Danish Oil and Natural Gas company has announced its plans to focus solely on renewables by 2023.
Other nations, especially those in Europe, are not far behind. Switzerland is another heavyweight, with 60 percent of its electricity mix comprising hydroelectricity. The country has recently adopted new laws to reduce fossil fuel dependence even further, calling for huge increases in diverse renewable sources, and a tax to fund subsidies for renewable power. Germany, on the other hand, is not as far along as the others, but boasts a huge amount of investment in the green economy, having managed to double its use of renewables since 2009. It hopes to obtain 80 percent of its power from green energy by 2022, and the German government has put forward several policies to facilitate the transition.
The world leaders in renewable energy—even those without the most abundant natural resources—have gotten there through a combination of ambitious goals and strong policies to help achieve them. Shedding reliance on fossil fuels is possible with the right amount of public determination.