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Iceland, a small country located between Canada and Scandinavia in the North Atlantic, has remarkable success in becoming a sustainable nation using renewable energy sources. Until the 1970s, Iceland was dependent on fossil fuels, but geographical and economic reasons drove Iceland to explore new ways to utilize renewable energy for both domestic and commercial use.

The price fluctuations of oil in the world marketplace became unaffordable for Iceland and their isolated area in the Arctic Circle created a need for more economical energy. Today geothermal and hydropower are the predominant sources of power that heat homes, power fish farming, and provide food processing and cosmetic manufacturers with affordable power.

Geothermal Energy

The thermal energy that comes from heat from the surface of the earth is geothermal energy. Iceland learned how to extract this source of power by using successful deep drilling techniques from the oil industry. Once this energy became viable for Iceland, their legal system made it a favorable alternative to fossil fuels for households in this Arctic country.


Flowing water from sources such as oceans and rivers produces energy. This energy turns into hydropower when the moving water is directed to electric generators. In Iceland, the largest hydropower stations are supplied with water from glacial rivers. Hydropower accounts for 73 percent of Iceland’s renewable energy.

Environmental Lessons from Iceland

Although a small country, with a population of only 339,031, as of 2019, Iceland contributes valuable examples of cooperation, governmental support and public involvement to share with other large and small countries who are facing the need for more sustainable energy sources. Input for these very important energy developments needs to come from both the citizens of the nation and government leaders. The future generations of a country have a large stake in how safe and successful their energy needs will be met in decades to come. Iceland’s policy of revealing their successful energy innovations in stages encourages their public to support new ideas and technologies. Iceland has shared its geothermal expertise with over 1,000 participants through their geothermal courses since 1979.

Renewable energy must be addressed now as a public and government concern with policies that are not tied to partisan influences or political gains.