Uruguay is a sustainability success story – here’s why

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World Economy Forum

Uruguay is the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America, known for its impressive coastline, high standard of living, low poverty rates and a football team that tends to punch above its weight. It’s also one of the most sustainable countries in the world, running on 98% renewable electricity, according to the US International Trade Administration.

It has been a rapid and profitable transition. In 2007, the country was still using fossil fuels for a third of its energy generation, the World Resources Institute reported.

Now, renewable energy is helping to cut more than half a billion dollars from the country’s annual budget.

How Uruguay is building a sustainability success story

Here are four ways.

1. Investment in renewables

Biomass, solar and around 50 wind parks have replaced the grid’s use of oil, according to the New York Times.

By 2015, energy investment – primarily for renewables, but also liquid gas – had grown to $7 billion, or 15% of the country’s annual GDP, well above the global average, reported The Guardian.

The country tends to produce a surplus of renewable energy, which allows it to export green electricity elsewhere. In 2021, Uruguay generated 14.04 TW of electricity (a 20% increase from 2020), 1119 TW for internal demand and exported 2,200 MW to Brazil plus 627 MW to Argentina, according to US International Trade Administration data.

Uruguay has also created a green hydrogen generation roadmap, which could position the country as a leading exporter of the gas, generating $2.1 billion in revenues and up to 34,000 jobs by 2040, according to Bloomberg.

“There is no doubt that hydrogen will play a very important role in global decarbonisation, and Latin America has the opportunity to join,” Omar Paganini, Uruguay’s Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, told an audience at the Hydrogen Americas Summit this year.

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