TODAY’S STUDY: GEOTHERMAL IN THE WORLD
Geothermal; International Overview Report
May 2012 (Geothermal Energy Association)
The global geothermal power market continued to grow substantially in 2011-12, outpacing the US geothermal market by a noticeable margin. As of May 2012, approximately 11,224 MW of installed geothermal power capacity was online globally. In 2010 geothermal energy generated twice the amount of electricity as solar energy did worldwide.
Geothermal growth is currently fueled by a number of factors: economic growth, especially in developing markets; the electrification of low-income and rural communities; increasing concerns regarding energy security and its impact on economic security. Additionally, the majority of the growth in the development of global geothermal resources is occurring in countries with large, untapped, conventional resources. As more countries recognize and understand the economic value of their geothermal resources, their development and utilization becomes a higher priority.
New technology appears to be underpinning geothermal expansion in some regions which have already seen significant development of their conventional resources. In the US and Europe, for example, the geothermal industry is increasingly using binary technology that can utilize more moderate and low temperature resources to generate electricity. Also, energy and economic security are compelling drivers for the adoption of policies supporting geothermal development in countries like Chile and Japan. In nearly every case, national policies are propelling growth in the strongest markets, while the current world leader – the US – appears to be growing more slowly due to policy uncertainties.
This report highlights geothermal resource development in certain countries, as well as the policy and economic drivers behind that development. The market trends observed will be the object of more thorough analysis in future studies.
A number of factors are leading certain countries in Africa to explore the viability of developing the continents geothermal resources. First, Africa has the smallest amount of energy use of any populated continent in the world. Only approximately 25 percent of Africa’s population has access to electricity, more than half of which is traditional biomass which contributes to deforestation and health problems. Increasing demand for electricity also adds impetus to the need to increase access to electricity in Africa. At the same time, increasing demand for electricity exacerbates issues currently associated with Africa’s electricity sector. For example, reliance on imported petro-products for thermal power generation exposes African countries to the price volatility of fossil fuels. Additionally, due to climactic fluctuations, the reliability of hydropower as a primary source of electricity for many African countries has been called into question.
Africa’s geothermal resources are concentrated in the East African Rift System (EARS comprises the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) and remain largely undeveloped. Currently, only approximately 217 MW of geothermal resources have been developed in Kenya and Ethiopia for electricity production. The estimated potential of geothermal resources in EARS is more than 15,000 MW…
Asia and the Pacific
Countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands are poised to make a significant contribution to the growth of the global geothermal industry. High-grade resources and friendly policy environments have resulted in an emergence of advanced-stage geothermal projects that are beginning to attract the expertise of geothermal developers as well as the interest of project financiers. The potential for the development of geothermal resources throughout the region is immense. Countries featuring in the growth of Asia’s geothermal sector are Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan where state efforts to provide policies and regulatory environments that incentivize the development of geothermal resources are increasingly attracting the interest of geothermal companies throughout the world…
Central America and the Caribbean
Geothermal energy stands to play a key role in the economic growth of Central America and Caribbean countries. In Central America rapid economic growth, increasing dependence on imported fossil fuels, and a push to overcome regional fragmentation through the SIEPAC (Sistema de Interconexion Electrica para America Central) transmission interconnection38 have created the need for the development of the region’s renewable resources. The majority of countries in Central America have developed a portion of their geothermal resources for utility scale power production. El Salvador and Costa Rica derive 24 percent (204 MW) and 12 percent (163 MW) of their electricity production from geothermal energy respectively. Nicaragua (87 MW) and Guatemala (49.5 MW) also generate a portion of their electricity from geothermal energy. The potential for further development of Central America’s geothermal resources remains significant, and the geothermal potential of the region has been estimated between 3,000 MW and 13,000 MW at 50 identified geothermal sites.39 Additionally, geothermal energy in Central America is competitive with the region’s primary forms of electricity generation; hydropower and thermal generation from fossil fuels…
In the past few decades South America has at times enjoyed economic growth due to the development and exportation of its oil and gas resources. However, economic and diplomatic issues surrounding the flow of energy across borders have had adverse impacts on the economies of South American countries. For example, Argentina abruptly cut off supply of natural gas to Chile in mid-2004; and a transmission line built a few years ago to connect Peru and Ecuador has rarely been used due to disagreement on electricity price. Reports of blackouts and worker strikes have become increasingly regular. At the same time, energy consumption and demand is growing in South America and is projected to increase by 72 percent through 2035(includes Central America), according to the EIA.
Awareness of climate change issues is another factor leading many of these countries to seek development of renewable resources. The melting of Andean glaciers and changing rain patterns have negatively impacted local agriculture and residential patterns thanks to the dwindling water supply.
The United Nations predicts that Latin American countries will be severely affected by climate change, despite the fact that the region’s greenhouse gas emissions represent a small proportion of total global emissions.
To address the of issues energy security, increasing demand, and sustainability, some countries in South America have taken steps to increase domestic energy security by supporting the development of their renewable energy resources.
Geothermal resources represent an opportunity to meet energy needs with a clean, baseload, sustainable form of energy in South America, particularly along the Andean Mountain Range and the Southern Cone of the continent. Experienced companies from Australia, Italy, the US, and other countries are taking an interest in the development of South America’s geothermal resources.
Many are partnering with a resident company, bringing local understanding to the project as well as making development more feasible. Some local and international mining companies have undertaken smaller scale operations, working to develop geothermal resources to help meet the electricity needs of their operations.
A key player in development financing for renewable energy throughout Latin America and the Caribbean is the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Already contributing to some geothermal projects, such as the Copahue project in Argentina, the bank’s recent efforts seem to redouble its commitment to climate-friendly solutions: thus far it has approved US$ 30 million for renewable energy projects for the Emerging Energy Latin America Fund II,56 had an additional US$ 70 billion capital injection, and began a five-year target to use 25 percent of its loans toward climate-related projects…
The principal countries of North America – Canada, Mexico and the US – have some of the highest standards of living in the world, as well as high electricity demand and degrees of electrification. However, the continent is also relatively well supplied with fossil and other conventional energy resources. Moreover, neither Canada nor the United States has adopted national climate policies and neither is currently a signatory to the Kyoto protocol.
While North American countries may not be as exposed to the same factors incentivizing emerging economies to develop their renewable resources, there is still a strong case for the increased implementation of geothermal energy into their economies as well. In the US, coal and natural gas respectively generated approximately 42 and 25 percent of total electricity generated in 2011, indicating that North American economies are also vulnerable to the adverse impacts of the price volatility of fossil fuels. Additionally, electricity demand is projected to grow by 0.8 percent per year in the US through 2035, indicating that additional generating capacity will be needed, although not at the scale of most emerging markets.76 In order to increase their energy security by meeting rising demand and mitigating the use of fossil fuels, North American countries are taking steps to increase their production of renewable energy resources, including geothermal.
In the US, federal and state policies have been the drivers for renewable generation. At the federal level, since 2005 geothermal and all other renewable technologies have been afforded important tax incentives to attract investors. At the state level, most have adopted renewable production requirements for their electric utilities. Recently, uncertainty has grown about whether Congress will continue to extend federal renewable power incentives and the economic recession has dampened state renewable effort. Yet, growth continued…