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Uruguay generates 95% of electricity from biomass and renewables

The South American country of Uruguay is now generating 95% of its power from renewable sources.

While Uruguay has no nuclear power plants and has not built new hydropower in 20 years, biomass, wind, and solar power are booming.

The massive shift to renewable energy was triggered by the country’s need to break away from its dependence on foreign oil, which in 2000 accounted for 15% of its total imports.

Ramón Méndez, Uruguay’s head of climate change policy, says the country had to go through a crisis to reach this point.

In 2008, the government announced a 25-year plan to change the way the country generated electricity. 

It found that it was able to attract foreign investment by offering a stable and secure environment for investors and building up partnerships between the public and private sectors.

‘What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business. And the construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive,’ says Méndez.

Consumers have benefited by a freeze on electricity prices and a reduction in power cuts caused by a more diverse generating stock.

Uruguay now plans an 88% cut in carbon emissions from the 2009-13 level.

The country is the second smallest is South America but is seen as one of the most socially liberal nations in the world, having legalised abortion, same-sex marriage, and the sale of cannabis.