Which countries do you think about when you think about leadership in renewable energy? China may likely come to mind for its massive manufacturing base of wind turbines and solar panels. Germany is a well-recognized leader in the adoption of wind power, as is the United States, despite some recent missteps.
You probably would not think to mention Costa Rica, which is really too small to be considered a world energy leader. But consider this: Costa Rica gets about 99% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, most of which comes from hydroelectric power. Its goal is to become the first carbon neutral country on the planet, and if it achieves that, it will be in large part because of its hydroelectric dams.
Here in the U.S., we talk about renewable energy all the time, but not much about hydroelectric power, one of the most established forms of renewable energy. This story offers a good explanation why, despite its zero emissions benefits, hydropower is not more widely embraced. When dams are constructed, the natural landscape is invariably disrupted.
Although the U.S. derives most of its renewable power from hydroelectricity, it uses far less hydro power than much of the rest of the world: Seven percent of the electricity in the United States comes from hydro power, compared with 19% worldwide.
So we ask: What do you think about hydropower? Are the concerns about ecological disruption valid enough that expansion should be limited? Or, are we just being unrealistic when we fail to accept the “cons” with the “pros?” When it comes to hydroelectricity, are there more “pros” than “cons?”