View of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world

Ranking: Latin American countries according to green energy consumption

The global push to increase the use of green energy is well underway, as countries around the world feel pressure to revamp their climate-impacting practices.

But with differing populations, energy usage requirements, and access to natural resources, some regions will have a more significant role to play. With a population of 664 million and an abundance of natural resources, Latin America (LatAm) is one such region.

How green is LatAm’s energy today? This chart from Latinometrics plots countries’ electricity production from renewables versus fossil fuels and highlights significant disparities between some nations.

Use of green energy in Latin America

As of 2020, many Latin American countries actually produced 50% or more of their electricity from renewable sources, including nuclear power. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the outliers:

Paraguay

Hydroelectricity is Paraguay’s main source of renewable and abundant energy. The country, in fact, produces surplus electricity and exports the rest to Argentina and Brazil. altogether, 60% if Paraguay’s hydroelectricity is exported, contributing to 6% or its GDP.

The main resource for this hydroelectric power, the ItaipĂș Dam, is located between Paraguay and Brazil and is jointly owned by both. The dam is responsible for 79% of Paraguay’s total energy capacity.

Costa Rica

At least Costa Rica ran 98% renewable energy since 2014. Both in the Americas and on a global scale, the country’s green energy usage is extremely high, driven primarily by hydropower:

Renewable energy sources of Costa Rica % of renewable energy (2019)
hydroelectric energy 67.5%
wind energy 17.0%
geothermal energy 13.5%
Backup plants 1.16%
Solar panels 0.84%

But in particular, the volcanoes of Costa Rica are also used as a source of geothermal energy.

Mexico

Mexico ranks considerably lower on the green energy spectrum. The country produces 303 TWh (terrawatt-hours) of electricity per year, but over two-thirds comes from fossil fuel sources.

Intense political discussions have emerged lately within Mexico regarding energy policies. The country has attractive solar energy potential, with some of the highest levels of sunlight globally, but has yet to fully tap into this renewable source. Recent actions by the current administration are reversing previous decisions toward renewables and are prioritizing domestic coal production while allowing anti-competitive practices for state-owned entities.

Based on current assessments by energy analysts, Mexico could call increases of carbon emissions in the coming decades.

Brazil

Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and the twelfth largest in the world, with a GDP of approx $1.5 trillion. Its oil industry remains a crucial component of the economy and ranks 9th in the world by production, producing about 3.2 million barrels per day.

While this might suggest that Brazil relies heavily on fossil fuels, the country’s electricity generation from green energy is actually extremely high. Or Brazil 606 TWh of electricity produced per year, 86% comes from nuclear or renewable sources.

Given its size and strength, Brazil is positioned to act as a leader within the continent on the path to net zero. In 2021, Brazil has dedicated itself $12 billion in investments towards energy transitions, ranking among the top 10 countries for spending.

Argentina

Compared to its more green-energy neighbors, Argentina is lagging behind on its renewable energy efforts. Produces 135 TWh of electricity per year, but only about 30% comes from nuclear or renewable energy.

Prolonged periods of economic instability are a driving force, constantly shifting the country’s priorities elsewhere. A few years ago, it launched the Argentina Renewable Energy Auction program to try to improve renewable electricity generation by 2025, but many projects have been scrapped due to funding issues.

However, southern Argentina is a particularly windy region within Latin America, making it a desirable location for future wind energy generation and investment.

How LatAm compares on a global scale

More than a quarter of Latin America’s energy comes from renewable energies, double the global average.

While countries around the world are striving for renewables to make up half or more of electricity generation by 2050, nearly two-thirds of Latin American countries have already done so. Also, Paraguay is one of the only seven countries of the world derive 100% of its electricity production from green energy.

How will other countries be impacted by Latin America’s green energy leaders in the years to come, and how will the region’s green energy usage evolve?

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