5 Countries Leading the Charge on Renewable Energy (And What We Can Learn From Them)
As of 2022, countries with the most renewable energy include Iceland, Norway, Japan, Brazil, and Iran—but each of these nations is taking a unique approach to solving the global energy crisis.
With such a diverse array of energy options on the market today, the US can learn a lot from countries that have already implemented widespread renewables. While renewables only accounted for about 12% of US energy consumption in 2021, sustainable innovations and access to green power will surely increase with time.
Iceland boasts an impressive energy market:
- As of 2016, geothermal and hydroelectric energy comprised more than 85% of Iceland’s primary renewable energy sources.
- Fossil fuels only power 15% of Iceland’s overall energy consumption, and nonrenewables are mostly used in the transit sector.
- Nearly all of Iceland’s electric power is generated from renewables—73% from hydroelectric power plants and 26.8% from geothermal energy.
So what can the US learn from Iceland’s renewables profile? Iceland’s diversity of energy sources is impressive—their investment in hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind power demonstrates that you can decarbonize with varied development of renewable technologies.
Like Iceland, Norway touts a nearly 99% reliance on renewables alone for electric power.
Since 2013, Norway has been producing over 100 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity with renewables alone. That year, the country’s electricity generation came out to:
- 129 TWh of hydroelectric power
- 1.9 TWh of wind power
- 3.3 TWh of geothermal power
This is an astronomical amount of power—one TWh is equal to one billion kilowatt hours (kWh), and the capital of Norway (Oslo) only uses approximately nine TWh of electricity per year.
In order to achieve widespread renewables, the US must take a page out of Norway’s book with regard to scale. Once we have the technology and infrastructure to create a surplus of renewable energy, we can get one huge step closer to complete decarbonization.
While Iceland and Norway have been displaying mastery of geothermal and hydroelectric power for years, Japan is taking a different approach on its path to decarbonization—harnessing the power of hydrogen.
Due to its geographic position, Japan has limited access to hydrocarbon resources like fossil fuels. But they’ve started implementing a widespread plan to replace fossils with hydrogen fuels, which will help them achieve:
- Energy security and autonomy
- Industrial competitiveness with world manufacturing leaders
- Decreased reliance on fossil fuels
Perhaps most impressively, Japan is a world leader in fuel cell technology, particularly fuel cell electric vehicles, which use hydrogen gas to power commuter cars, public transit, and more.
The United States should take Japan’s investment in hydrogen fuel as a sign that the world’s energy priorities are changing—world leaders in renewables are finding new, green alternatives to traditional fuels, and Japan is leading the charge in hydrogen.
In the last few years, Brazil has significantly scaled its wind and solar energy infrastructure. But renewables aren’t new to the country—more than half of its cars run on sugarcane alcohol, and hydroelectric power is by far its largest source of electricity.
But Brazil’s newly installed wind energy plants can produce up to 500 gigawatts (GW) per year. The country’s energy leaders plan to increase the installed capacity of solar panels by 1 gigawatt (GW) per year until 2026. This is a substantial increase from the 2013 levels, when the country first began its push to develop solar power infrastructure.
Like Iceland, Brazil’s energy sector exemplifies the importance of diversification.
Despite having access to one of the world’s most abundant natural gas fields (South Pars, in the Persian Gulf), Iran is still a major consumer of traditional gasoline.
But to curb its 26 million-gallon-per-year fuel consumption, Iran is introducing a widespread innovation in commuter vehicles and the public transit fleet—dual-fuel cars that use both traditional gasoline and compressed natural gas (CNG).
Since the project began in 2020, Iran has:
- Converted over 200,000 vehicles from traditional fuel to dual fuel
- Saved over 92 million gallons of fuel
- Funded over 75% of the costs with government subsidies
Iran’s approach is a lesson to the US that, even in nations steeped in fossil fuels, the switch to cleaner, greener energy is possible.
How Does the US Compare?
Compared to Iceland and Norway’s majority-renewable electrical supply, Japan’s introduction of hydrogen in numerous sectors, Brazil’s diversified investment in renewable energy, and Iran’s focus on harnessing CNG, the US is certainly behind the curve in decarbonization and green energy.
All hope isn’t lost, however, as in recent years, the US has made strides in:
- Increased sustainability in mass transit
- Renewable energy jobs and public investments
- Scaled production of hydrogen fuel
While we’re certainly not leading the world in renewables adoption, our progress shows promise for the years to come.
Look to FASTECH for Alternative Energy Solutions and Consulting
The US isn’t one of the countries with the most renewable energy adoption, but we certainly have excellent models for widespread renewable implementation. Iceland, Norway, Japan, Brazil, and Iran are all setting the stage for the future of energy.
When you’re ready to harness that future, look no further than FASTECH. As the country’s leader in renewable energy construction, engineering, and procurement, we have the experience you need to bring your alternative energy project from the conceptual phase into reality.
We’re building a foundation for the future with end-to-end renewable energy solutions. If you have a project you’d like to facilitate, we can’t wait to make your vision come to life.