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10 TWh of green energy available

Iceland-Landsvirkjun-New-Renewable-Electricity-GenerationThe Icelandic power company Landsvirkjun has introduced plans for several new renewable energy projects.

If all these projects will be realized, they will add close to 7 TWh of annual generation from natural hydro- and geothermal sources. All the projects have been identified. As Landsvirkjun is owned by the Icelandic government, formal decisions about which of the projects will be realized first depends on the Icelandic parliament.

In addition, Landsvirkjun has put a figure on several other possible new power projects, that could be generating electricity within a decade or so. In total, Iceland may within near future be producing 9-10 TWh more electricity than today. This is not an exact figure; the new additional capacity could be somewhat less or even more. This will depend on the interest of new users of electricity, such as data centers, silicon industry etc. However, the most interesting option may be selling part of the new electricity production to markets in Europe.

Iceland-Landsvirkjun-HVDC-Feasabilty-StudyA feasibility study on a possible electrical cable (high voltage direct current cable; HVDC) between Iceland and Europe is currently being carried out by a special working group. The group includes people from the Icelandic power sector and other stakeholders, appointed by the Icelandic Minister of Industries and Innovation. It is expected that the working group will deliver its report  during next year (2014).

The high electricity prices in Europe make a cable to Europe an especially interesting option for the Icelandic power generating firms. During the last few years, wholesale electricity prices in Western Europe have often been around three times higher than in Iceland. Thus, an electric cable between Iceland and Europe could increase the profits of Icelandic power companies  substantially.

EU-energy-policy-20-20-20There would be numerous other positive gains from such a cable, as presented on the slide at left (the slide is from a presentation by Landsvirkjun). For example, the Icelandic power companies would be able to maximize the current capacity, resulting in more production. Europe would enjoy access to new green electricity generation, which would help the member states of the European Union (EU) in achieving climate- and energy goals (the EU aims at raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20% no later than 2020). The issues of such a connection between Iceland and Europe was described in more details in one of our earlier posts.

In the forthcoming months it will hopefully become clearer if Europe may gain access to the geothermal- and hydropower of Iceland.

European Union welcomes Icelandic geothermal know-how

Earlier this month the Energy Commissioner of the European Union (EU), Mr. Günther Oettinger, emphasized the importance of Icelandic geothermal experience and know-how for EU’s energy policy.

oettinger-geothermal-energy-eu-policyIn his closing speech at the Iceland Geothermal Conference 2013 in Reykjavik, Mr. Oettinger backed binding targets for renewable energy for 2030, noting that geothermal energy can “help us reach our energy and climate goals, and that we can expect the utilization of geothermal energy  to become more and more prominent”.

In European context, geothermal is currently just slightly over 0.1% of the total electricity generation. Around 1% of the renewable power generation within the EU comes from geothermal and geothermal accounts for approxemately 3% of EU’s renewable heat production.

Mr. Oettinger pointed out that the EU can learn a lot from Iceland regarding utilization of geothermal energy. Iceland alone generates almost as much electricity from geothermal sources as the rest of the EU put together. While all the 27 member states of the EU produce close to 6 TWh of electricity from geothermal sources annually, the figure in Iceland is 4,7 TWh. Another comparison Mr. Oettinger mentioned in his speech, is that Iceland produces more than ten times as much geothermal heating as Germany.

With this said, Mr. Oettinger expressed that it is “no surprise that the United Nations decided in 1978 to base its University Geothermal Training Programme in Iceland”. He went on stressing that Iceland has shown that by getting the energy policy and prices right, the jobs and businesses will follow.

Iceland-Geothermal-Station-PipesMr. Oettinger said that geothermal can help EU’s member states achieving their energy policy goals on sustainability, competitiveness, security of supply, and geopolitical security. Of course geothermal will never be taking off in the EU the same way as in Iceland – the geography and geology is simply too different for that. “But we reckon that if we played it right, we could get 5% of our energy demand from geothermal within 10 years.”

This is a very interesting suggestion of a possible goal by Mr. Oettinger. Not only would this call for a massive investment in the geothermal sector, but at the same time offer great possibilities for Icelandic businesses, with their extensive knowledge of geothermal utilization. In this respect it is worth mentioning the Icelandic engineering firms are already is working on several geothermal projects on the European continent and elsewhere in the world.

Possibly, geothermal utilization for heating and cooling (by geothermal heat pumps) could be the best option for the EU in growing its use of geothermal energy. Thus, it is not surprising that in his speech Mr. Oettinger especially mentioned that although the EU does have “nowhere near the geothermal resources that Iceland has, there is plenty of potential in Europe, in particular for heating”. This may for example apply to countries like Germany, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia, just to name a few of EU’s member states.

Iceland-Geothermal-Conference-2013-Gekon-logoFrom Mr. Oettinger’s speech at the Iceland Geothermal Conference, it seems clear that we may expect more cooperation in the field of geothermal energy between the EU and Iceland. Mr. Oettinger expressed EU’s interest in increasing financial support for more geothermal research. In this regard he mentioned the European GEOFAR project (Geothermal Finance and Awareness in European Regions), and stressed his aim to get bankers and investors more interested, as well as conventional extractive industries, including oil and gas.

Next Iceland Geothermal Conference will be taking place in April 2016.

World Bank calls for global geothermal energy initiative

Walking out of Keflavik airport as the arctic breeze hit my face at 50 km per hour, I thought to myself, “I love my job.”

Sri Mulyani Indrawati-Iceland-2012These words are from a recent blog of Mrs. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director of the World Bank, following her visit to Iceland. There, Sri Mulyani was a keynote speaker at at the Iceland Geothermal Conference, which took place in Reykjavik on March 5-8. Roughly 600 participants, delegates, and exhibitors attended the conference to discuss changes and forward thinking within the energy industry, with 55 presentations given by global figureheads within the industry.

The Geothermal Conference has helped carry a positive message for the possibilities within the green energy industry. A major obstacle for geothermal projects has been the initial test drilling phase, which can be very expensive and risky. By its new Global Geothermal Development Plan (GGDP), the World Bank hopes to attract more investment into geothermal exploration.

The focus of the GGDP is on geothermal opportunities in the developing world. Many developing world regions are rich in geothermal resources, including East Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Andean region. The GGDP will bring together donors and multilateral lenders around an investment plan to scale up geothermal power, with the goal of developing a pipeline of commercially-viable projects that are ready for private investment.

Geothermal-plant-illustrationPromising sites will be identified and exploratory drilling financed, with the aim of developing commercially viable projects.  The Plan’s initial target is to mobilize USD 500 million. Donors can participate by identifying viable projects, and through bilateral assistance, as well as by contributing to existing channels such as the Climate Investment Funds (CIF’s) or the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  The GGDP will be managed by the World Bank’s longstanding Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).

The World Bank and Iceland are already working together to support surface exploration studies and technical assistance for countries in Africa’s Rift Valley. This cooperation includes project financing of geothermal exploration in thirteen East Africa Rift Valley by the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF).

Iceland-Geothermal-power-plant-1The GGDP expands on previous efforts by its global scope, and will build on regional efforts such as the coopertaion between Iceland and the World Bank. “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.”

Data centers in Iceland offer dramatic savings

Businesses overseas are turning to Iceland to host their data, making use of cheaper energy and natural cooling resources. Icelandic datacenters do not only offer very competitive prices, but also reduce carbon footprint and improve green credentials, as they are powered by renewable electricity only (from natural hydro- and geothermal resources).

datacenter-icelandA recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the operating expenditure of a 10,000 sqf data center in Iceland, over a 15 year period, is USD 130 million cheaper than running it in the United Kingdom or in Continental Europe. Thus, Iceland offers dramatic savings in the long run.

According to Invest in Iceland, a government body provides information to foreign investors, a fifth of data centre costs are spent on power. Half of that is used for cooling. In Iceland, businesses have access free-air cooling all year round and thus saving substantially on cooling costs.

In addition, the electricity is much cheaper in Iceland than in the rest of Europe. In Iceland, data centers are currently being offered power at the price of USD 0.043 (4.30 cents) per kWh, which is less than half of the price which is common in other European countries. This low Icelandic price can be locked up for at east 12 years, offering businesses a clear understanding of operating expenses in the long run.

Furthermore, while cost is one of the major factors attracting data centre investment and services to Iceland, carbon footprint is also an important driver for European businesses to consider Iceland as a location for their data. As European carbon taxes begin to bite, companies are looking towards Iceland’s carbon free data centers as a long-term option to demonstrate their commitment to green IT. Currently, three data centers have been constructed; the Advania, GreenCloud and Verne Global.

Iceland-Data-Fiber-ConnectionsThe Icelandic electricity generation and distribution ranks as one of the most reliable in the world. Thus, Iceland data centers offer 99.999% uptime, and power companies are willing to put that uptime in the contract agreement. Connectivity to the Icelandic data center facilities is provided by redundant, high-capacity, multi-terabit-per-second connections, including Farice, Danice and Greenland Connect.

Volcanic activity in Iceland may have the effect making investors reluctant to invest in data centers in Iceland and same may apply to businesses regarding hosting their data in the country. But the fact is, that large areas in Iceland have no volcanic activity and none seismic risk. In a nutshell, the risk for data centers from natural hazards or extreme weather are no higher in Iceland than in most other European countries.

Reykjavik-Center-WinterThe regulatory environment in Iceland is clear and is built on European standards (Iceland is a full member of the European Economic Area; EEA). Numerous agencies and local governments are willing to assist companies interested in investing. Our readers are welcome to contact us at the Icelandic Energy Portal for more information. You can call us at +354-863-8333 and/or send message through our contact-form.

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