Itaipu Dam on Paraguay and Brazil border

3 Unusual Countries That Are Leaders in Alternative Energy

There’s a big push for alternative energy these days, and for good reason. Experts have speculated that fossil fuels could start running out as soon as 2025. A couple countries—some of them virtually unknown—have already achieved 100% renewable energy sourcing for electricity while others are well on their way. There are multiple ways to achieve this—electricity can be made from sunlight, wind, water (hydropower), heat (geothermal energy), and biomass (plant waste and manure). Each country has to assess their natural resources and create an energy plan from there.


Iceland was the very first country to “propose 100% renewable energy”, and that was in 1998. This tiny little country in the North Atlantic Ocean is said to be a land of fire and ice, as it is an island that was originally formed from volcanic activity and sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the Eurasian and North American plates meet. This unique geological composition has made it possible for them to use hydropower (72%) and geothermal energy (28%) to generate almost 100% of their electricity. Around 87% of the buildings in Iceland are heated and supplied with hot water from geothermal sources. Their geothermal energy, of course, comes from the hot water, hot rock, and magma in the ground beneath them.


Yet another little-known country, Paraguay, is leading the way to 100% alternative energy. Paraguay is a small landlocked country in South America with a mostly tropical climate. It derives all of its electricity from the hydropower generated by the Itaipu Dam, a massive structure that made it into the American Society of Civil Engineers’ list of seven modern Wonders of the World. It’s the second largest hydroelectric facility in operation in the world. Paraguay only uses 10% of this energy and exports the remaining 90% to Brazil and Argentina. The Itaipu Dam began operating in 1984 and reached completion in 1991. Although Iceland is heralded as the country that led the push for renewable energy, it appears that Paraguay beat them to it.


Uruguay is the second-smallest country in South America, but it has also managed to achieve almost 95% green energy sourcing over the course of the last 10 years. Uruguay used to rely on energy imports from Argentina and Brazil, but has now become self-reliant on a combination of domestic energy sources. Hydroelectric facilities and wind parks are its most-used sources and biomass and solar power are gaining in popularity. Most Uruguayan homes are heated with the world’s most traditional form of renewable energy—firewood.

As you can see, alternative energy options depend on where you live. The climate, geological makeup, and governmental decisions all play a part in determining which energies are more available.