World Bank eyes geothermal energy

The World Bank today announced a major international effort to expand renewable power generation in developing countries by tapping an underutilised resource: geothermal energy.

World Bank managing director, Sri Mulyani Indrawati called on donors, multilateral banks, governments and the private sector to join a Global Geothermal Development Plan (GGDP) to better manage and reduce risks of exploratory drilling to bring what is now a marginal renewable energy source into the mainstream, and deliver power to millions.

“Geothermal energy could be a triple win for developing countries: clean, reliable, locally-produced power. And once it is up and running, it is cheap and virtually endless,” Sri Mulyani Indrawati said in a statement.

He said the World Bank Group, and many of our partners, supported the goals of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and their President Jim Yong Kim.

“Two of those goals are universal access to modern energy services, and doubling the world’s proportion of renewable energy. Geothermal energy will be a major step towards both,” he said.

Already, he said the World Bank and Iceland are working together under a ‘Geothermal Compact’ to support surface exploration studies and technical assistance for countries in Africa’s Rift Valley.

The bank said at least 40 countries have enough geothermal potential to meet a significant proportion of their electricity demand.

“Until now, our work has been at the country and regional levels,” Sri Mulyani said.

“These efforts are important, and should continue. But a global push is what is needed now. Only a global effort will put geothermal energy in its rightful place – as a primary energy source for many developing countries. Only a global effort will pool resources to spread the risk effectively. It will let us learn from each other, from our failures and successes, and apply that learning.”

The World Bank will convene donors later this year to discuss financing of specific geothermal projects under the plan.

The Bank Group’s financing for geothermal development has increased from $73 million in 2007 to $336 million in 2012, and now represents almost 10 per cent of the Bank’s total renewable energy lending.