In the area of renewable energy, Iceland is one of the world leaders. Currently, renewable or green energy sources provide 72% of the country's electricity needs. And, Iceland is one of the few countries with plans to completely wean themselves off of fossil fuels in the near term.
Iceland derives this energy from two main renewable sources, geothermal and hydroelectric. Currently, the country gets about 26% of its power needs from geothermal power and the remainder from its many hydropower plants. The country has numerous power plants, of both types around the country and plans to develop two more geothermal plants by 2010.
Sure, one could argue that supplying energy to a population of approximately 300,000 is a lot easier than 300,000,000 like in the United States. And, Iceland did develop these resources out of necessity, because it has few other natural resources. This was true especially in the early stages of Iceland's industrial development. That fact belies the country's current and ever-growing commitment to environmental quality and sustainability. So, however they got to this place may be a mute point; the fact is, they are currently one of the leading countries in the utilization of renewable energy and they may have much to teach the rest of the world. Iceland is a country that has leap-frogged out of relative obscurity to international prominence in renewable energy technology. In many ways, the country's small size and minimal industrial development as compared to other developed nations is now an asset, leaving the country more nimble and less dogmatically devoted to an infrastructure built upon fossil fuel consumption.
Recently, a local engineering company, Mannvit and a California-based technology company named Carbon Recycling International, have started the development of the world's first geothermal to liquid fuel plant. The plant will have the capacity of producing 4.5 million liters per year of methanol which will be blended into fuel for general automotive consumption.
As many people know, most homes and businesses in Iceland are heated by thermal water, the intentional byproduct of many of the geothermal plants. This very hot water is piped into all the major cities, such as Reykjavik and Akureyri as well as some of the most rural locations imaginable. In fact, well before the country was producing electricity from geothermal plants, it was heating homes. This is obviously a very important energy source for a cold climate and one of the big reasons that Iceland has such excellent air quality because it has not had to burn fossil fuels for home heating for the majority of the population for many, many decades now.
Iceland is a true innovator in geothermal energy. A recent project of note was the development and construction of the world's first geothermal power plant utilizing Kalina technology. This innovation is drawing interest from countries around the world who wish to develop new geothermal power plants utilizing this latest technology which is capable of generating significantly more energy from low temperature geothermal fields.
One of the last areas of energy consumption that Iceland intends to tackle is the use of gasoline and here too the country has plans to completely wean themselves off of gasoline powered automobiles by approximately 2020 through the utilization of hydrogen as the sole fuel source for all cars , trucks, buses and fishing boats.
I strongly believe that we will be hearing much more from this tiny island nation just below the Arctic Circle in the coming years and hopefully many developed and developing nations will start following their lead and the lead of other forward thinking countries.