The 1970’s onwards has seen Iceland overhaul its GDP and become self-sustaining. As a previously dubbed developing nation, the country — lacking in coal reserves —depended vastly on imported coal. Until recently, Iceland’s economic output was based mostly on fishing and farming, a total contrast to its current industries which include tourism and manufacturing. This economic growth manifested out of a decade-long strategy to create a self-sustaining green economy.
Many countries — developed and otherwise still developing — can learn a lot from Iceland. Here are just a few things we can take from Iceland’s strategy to develop a greener economy and to be an example for the future of renewable energy.
A Little about Iceland
Home to an approximate 300,000 people, the island houses large glaciers which produce equally large volumes of water usedto generate electricity. Iceland is located atop geothermal hotspots, making the land’s geographical location quite lucrative for the development of renewable energy to take place. With its unique location, it should come as no surprise that Iceland generates nearly all of its own electricity through geothermal and hydroelectric sources. Through this energy shift, the country manages to save up to half of its GDP from imported coal.
But the important lessons to take from Iceland are measures a nation should adopt when it commits to systemically establishing a greener economy. Iceland serves as a reminder that climate-conscious businesses are financially rewarding ventures, in addition to also being environmentally conscious of our future.
Bottom Up Approach to Change
The renewable energy transformation was made possible by grassroot approaches which empowered and provided Icelanders with employment and business opportunities. These initiatives encouraged the involvement of communities, small villages, and individual entrepreneurs. This bottom up approach fostered the dynamic of sustainable-business, vastly contributing to a nation-wide system overhaul and the adoption of renewable energy.
Creating Ecotourism Attraction Sites
By linking several geothermal plants with tourism, Iceland continues to make significant returns on its investments. Take the Blue Lagoon tourist attraction site for example. The site, which is nothing more than an overflow of hot water from geothermal energy, accidentally came into being in 1970. It continues to attract tourists with promises of its healing properties, if only for a small fee. The site receives over 600,000 tourists annually—an enormous gain for a country with approximately 300,000 residents.
Food Consciousness – Farming and Preserving What You Eat
Food security is an important aspect of maintaining and developing a greener economy. A great example of this is Iceland’s greenhouse cultivation method. This domestic food project severs the nation’s dependence on imported foods.
Food security becomes most problematic in countries where storage proves difficult. Icelandic fishermen came up with the method of drying fish heads and spines to preserve the food for up to two years. While these parts were previously disposed of, they are currently sent to Nigeria after undergoing geothermal heat processing. This has proven to be an economically lucrative venture for both countries.
Educating and Exporting Renewable Energy
Being part of the interconnected global society also means accepting the responsibility to share knowledge and to educate; Iceland continues to do this very well. They conduct UN Geothermal Training Programme, educating over 400 professionals from all over the world since 1979. Also, Iceland continues to educate and export resources for geothermal plants used to substitute coal in parts of Asia and Africa.
Similarly, various hydro-rich Scandinavian countries are working on exporting alternative energy sources through underwater cables. Norway has extended such assistance towards the Netherlands. Such projects and their likes have the potential to assist numerous neighboring European countries, including the UK.
All in all, switching to eco-friendly energy has overall contributed to the growth and sustainability of Iceland’s economy, and shows how an investment in renewable energy can become the backbone of a country’s economy.