More countries embrace geothermal energy

More countries throughout the world are set to embrace geothermal with others having significant potential to do so a new Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) report reveals.

The GEA’s International Market Overview Report finds that although the United States is still the global leader in the exploitation of geothermal energy, more countries around the world look set to develop such resources in the near future with others having great potential to do likewise.

Global geothermal capacity grew substantially over 2011-12 with around 11,224 MW online as of May 2012. In 2010 geothermal produced double the amount of energy as solar energy. The United States is beginning to be outpaced by the rate of growth in geothermal, although at present it remains the global leader. Among the countries showing most promise are Turkey, Indonesia and Kenya.

Turkey is widely regarded as the ‘hottest’ markets in Europe for geothermal. It is also the seventh most promising country in the world with 2,000 MW of potential. The Turkish Geothermal Association estimates that there will be around 500 MW of installed capacity online by 2015, compared to the current level of around 100 MW.

The report identifies a number of factors behind the global growth in geothermal. One of them is economic growth but other factors include the electrification of low-income and rural communities, new technology, increased energy security concerns and favourable national policies.

Nicaragua and Indonesia have both benefited from favourable policies recently and both look set to become important geothermal markets in the near future. In the US unfavourable government policies have actually slowed growth but certain federal agencies such as the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) have nevertheless created programmes for growth in geothermal, both at home and abroad.

One of the prime requisites for expansion of renewable energy in the US is the extension of tax credits and the credits for geothermal expire at the end of 2013, which makes it rather difficult for projects with long lead-in times to move forward in an unpredictable economic climate.

Kenya is also considering geothermal to further encourage growth in its economy. It is thought that Kenya has around 7,000 MW of geothermal potential with 202 MW having already been developed. At least 14 potential geothermal sites have been indentified in Kenya.

Indonesia has a rapidly growing economy and an increasingly urbanized population. It’s potential geothermal resources have been estimated at 27,510 MW and the Indonesian government intends to increase its installed capacity to 5,000 MW by 2025.

Other areas with high geothermal potential include Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile The Guardian recently reported the prominence of Dominica as the leader of a group of 52 island states that are turning towards geothermal with the aim of cutting carbon emissions by 45% over the next 18 years.

The group also, unsurprisingly perhaps, includes the Maldives, which is one of the most concerned countries in the world with regard to climate change with its low-lying territory. It also includes Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Mauritius and many others. A recent representative from the island group attending a UN conference made clear that this was about survival as well as economics.

Closer to home, Europe is also highly interested in developing geothermal. A recent meeting involving European, Icelandic and Japanese geothermal representatives during an event in Brussels in May discussed key actions and cooperation to develop geothermal resources.

The group concluded that geothermal would indeed by a major factor in the EU energy mix as well as that of Iceland and Japan but that policy makers needed to be more aware of geothermal potential and its applications. At present it currently receives little support, particularly with regard to R&D and this must change if Europe is to reach its decarbonisation target.

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