Renewable energy and efficiency shifts in South Korea, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela

Originally published on The Climate Reality Project.

Countries all over the world are embracing renewables as a source of affordable clean energy – even countries you might not expect.

Countries all over the world are embracing renewables as a source of affordable clean energy – even countries many associate directly with the oil, coal, and gas industries. Thanks in large part to the Paris Agreement, more world leaders than ever are recognizing the many economic benefits of cleaning up their act.

Here are six nations whose efforts to become more sustainable in a world shifting away from dirty fossil fuels in favor of clean, renewable energy may come as a bit of a surprise.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a nation often thought to be synonymous with oil. But just this year, the Saudi government tightened efficiency requirements for air conditioners, set fuel economy standards for cars, and required insulation for new buildings. The country also announced “Vision 2030,” a 15-year plan to become less reliant on oil exports. The proposal includes replacing 14 percent of the country’s current power generating capacity with domestic solar energy.

Russia

Russia, the world’s largest producer of crude oil and the second-largest producer of dry natural gas, is making some sustainable changes. Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared 2017 the “Year of the Environment,” providing a great opportunity to bring environmental issues to the Russian public’s eye to create momentum for a green technology revolution in a country that is rich with diverse renewable energy sources and has a highly skilled workforce.

South Korea

South Korea has developed greatly within the last 20-30 years, particularly in the city of Seoul, where Mayor Park Won-Soon believes that locally producing renewable energy can help mitigate the climate crisis. Won-Soon, motivated by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, launched a campaign encouraging Seoul’s 10 million residents to change the way they consume energy. Within three years, the city reduced its net energy consumption by four percent. Additionally, Park has created a citywide program to pay for solar panels that would generate power for local apartments, homes, and businesses.

Iran

The oil-rich nation of Iran is taking steps to begin partially running on renewable energy. In 2014, President Hassan Rouhani committed to adding 5,000 megawatts of renewable electricity to the country’s grid by the year 2020 – enough to power up to two million homes. The government appointed the Renewable Energy Organization of Iran to help it achieve this goal. Currently, nearly 200 megawatts of electricity are generated from renewable resources, predominately wind and solar.

Venezuela

Venezuela, home to some of the world’s largest oil reserves, is in the midst of an energy crisis. The nation receives much of its energy from hydropower, with about half of it produced by a single dam. So the nation’s now-three years-long drought has proven crippling. The Foundation for the Development of Electric Service has been helping to alleviate some of the stress by installing solar panels and providing clean drinking water for isolated communities that are off the nation’s electric grid. Following the first phase of the program in 2009, over 800 systems were installed in 550 communities, along with 110 solar powered water purification systems. They have helped an estimated 200,000 people, and the program is still active and running today.

Indonesia

Indonesia has experienced major deforestation for several years due to land clearing for its growing palm oil industry. However, thanks to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the palm oil industry is being revolutionized. The non-profit is certifying growers to become sustainable, and so far, the RSPO has globally certified over 66 growers and 2.3 hectares, accounting for about 20 percent of the world’s palm oil supply.

The Road Forward

Where there’s a will there’s a way, and these six unexpected countries are proving that.

Do you want to learn more about the potential for solutions and change among many of the world’s other major emitters? Join former US Vice President Al Gore on December 5-6 for the global broadcast event 24 Hours of Reality: The Road Forward as we bring the planet together to fight the climate crisis and make a brighter future a reality.