There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades. Instead, he says, the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.
"As the world gathers in Paris
for the daunting task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable
energy, one small country on the other side of the Atlantic is making
that transition look childishly simple and affordable. In less than 10 years, Uruguay
has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher
consumer costs, according to the national director of energy, Ramón
Méndez . In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the
country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to
inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix
means greater resilience to droughts. It was a very different story just 15 years ago. Back at the turn of
the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new
pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.
Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation. Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing
hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the
country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a
global average share of 12%. Despite its relatively small population of just 3.4 million, Uruguay
has earned a remarkable amount of global kudos in recent years. It enacted groundbreaking marijuana legalisation,
pioneered stringent tobacco control, and introduced some of the most
liberal policies in Latin America on abortion and same-sex marriage."