Iceland is famous for its breathtaking scenery, geysers, and Blue Lagoon, but did you know that, thanks largely to untapped reserves of geothermal and hydroelectric energy, it is known to be one of the greenest countries on the planet? In fact, Iceland is the world’s largest clean energy producer per capita and largest electricity producer per capita, with approximately 55,000 kWh per person per year.
Iceland’s Production of Clean Energy
According to the Government of Iceland:
- Iceland has “the highest share of renewable energy in any national total energy budget.”
- Roughly 65% of the total primary energy supply in Iceland is derived from domestically produced renewable energy sources.
- In 2015:
- Total electricity consumption was 18,798 GWh, with renewable energy producing almost 100% of electricity (about 73% from hydropower and 27% from geothermal power). Most of the hydropower plants are owned by Iceland’s National Power Company, Landsvirkjun, the country’s main electricity supplier.
- In 2016:
- Geothermal energy accounted for about 65% of primary energy. Geothermal energy’s main use is for space heating, with extensive district-heating systems distributing the heat. Approximately 85% of homes in Iceland use geothermal energy for heat.
- Hydropower provided 20% of primary energy, while the share of fossil fuels (specifically oil products for the transport sector) was 15%.
With a Little Help from Geography
Iceland is able to easily reap the advantages of renewable resources to produce energy because of its geographic location. The country is positioned on the boundary that separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which are moving away from one another at a rate of 2 cm per year. Iceland is also located just below the Arctic Circle, with glaciers covering 11% of the country. Not only does Iceland have a breathtaking landscape filled with waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, and hot springs, but it also has access to hydro- and geothermal power, which comprise the foundation of Iceland’s green energy system.
A Leader in Renewable Energy
Not so long ago, Iceland’s economy relied primarily on fishing, but it has certainly diversified over the past few years. The country has experienced significant growth in tourism, manufacturing, and financial services, which can be attributed to Iceland’s strategy of putting sources of renewable energy to use.
As the world has begun to recognize the reality of climate change and the importance of limiting greenhouse gas emissions, many U.S. states (including New York) have set goals of obtaining 10 percent or 15 percent of their energy from renewables in the foreseeable future. But Iceland is already at about 80 percent, as nearly all electricity on the island country is generated through geothermal or hydroelectric sources—low-emissions sources that don’t require fossil fuels.
Invested in Keeping the Oceans Clean
It’s evident that Iceland places an emphasis on the environment and invests in sustainability. In addition to focusing on producing electricity and heat by using geothermal landscapes, Iceland plays a major role in the fight against ocean pollution by ensuring waters are kept clean, and fishing is done with a first concern for protecting the environment.
This country has been graded one of the most sustainable in the world, ranking 17th with an Environmental Performance index of 72.3. It scored perfect 100s for PM2.5 exposure under the air quality category.
What Other Nations Can Learn from Iceland
The United States and other developed nations can undoubtedly learn some valuable lessons from Iceland about what happens when a society commits to the systematic development of renewable energy. Some of the benefits associated with renewable energy include:
- Less global warming
- Improved public health
- Creating economic development
- Creating manufacturing jobs
- Diversifying energy supply
- Reducing dependence on foreign fuels
- Resilience against severe weather
Learn More about Sustainability and Renewable Energy
As you’ve learned in this post, Iceland is inarguably a world leader when it comes to renewable energy. If you’re interested in learning more about renewable energy and other sustainability topics, then be sure to stay up to speed on our blog.