Skip to content

Posts from the ‘World Energy’ Category

UK-Iceland cable on the Global Infrastructure 100 List

A global panel of independent industry experts has identified a subsea electric cable between Iceland and the United Kingdom (UK) as one of the hundred most inspirational and innovative infrastructure projects in the world – many of which are expected to transform the way the world’s populations interact with their cities, governments and environment. This is the first time that an infrastructure project in Iceland is on this list, which is published by KPMG (download the report as pdf here).

KPMG-Global-Infrastructure-100-2014-coverKPMG International’s ‘Infrastructure 100: World Markets Report highlights key trends driving infrastructure investment around the world. In the report, a global panel of industry experts identifies 100 of the world’s most innovative, impactful infrastructure projects. Furthermore, the panel demonstrates how governments are coming together with the private sector to overcome funding constraints in order to finance and build projects that can improve quality of life – both solving immediate needs and planning for future societal demands.

The 2014 report focuses on key trends driving infrastructure investment in four key markets, one of the categories being smaller established markets, which are strong domestic markets open to private finance in infrastructure.

The subsea electric cable between Iceland and the UK is one of 25 projects falling under this market-category. The report describes the project, called IceLink, as an ambitious attempt to connect the power grids of Iceland and the UK. Iceland produces all of its electrical power by the means of renewable energy, such as hydro, geothermal and wind, and has potential well beyond local consumption.

According to KPMG, the total investment in the cable and related production and grid infrastructure in Iceland has been assessed in the range of USD 5 billion. When completed, this clean-tech venture would be the world’s longest subsea power cable, delivering as much as 5 TWh a year of renewable electricity to the UK – at a cost lower than offshore wind in UK territories. KPMG says that UK-based ventures have shown interest in funding the interconnector, while Icelandic power companies will build the power-generating facilities and onshore infrastructure in Iceland

KPMG-Global-Infrastructure-100-2014-enregy-and-resources-list-smallOf all the 100 projects listed in the 2014 KPMG-report, 27 projects are in the sector of energy and natural resources. Besides the IceLink, these projects are for example the Alaska LNG Project, the UK Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station, and Russia-China Gas Pipeline.

A total of 25 projects are classified as being in smaller established markets. The IceLink is one of these projects – other projects in this category are for example the Facebook Rapid Deployment Data Center in Luleå in Sweden, the Scandinavian 8 Million City High Speed Rail Link between the capitals of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and the Rail Baltica, linking Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with 960 km of railway track. Although many of the projects in this category face challenges regarding scale and investment, KPMG believes there are good possibilities to realize all the projects with increased access of private investment. With IceLink in mind, a perfect and realistic business model might be a private ownership of the cable, while the Icelandic TSO and the main Icelandic power firms would probably be in majority governmental ownership, possibly with private investors as co-owners.

Iceland is the world largest energy consumer (per capita)

Worlds-largest-energy-consuming-countries_OilPrice-2014Which countries are the largest energy consumers – and why? According to Andrew Topf at the energy-news-site Oilprice.com, Qatar has been the world’s largest energy consumer per capita most of the last three decades. Now, however, another country has taken the lead. Today, Iceland is the world largest energy user per capita.

The list is based on the most recent data available from the World Bank on energy used per person, measured in kilograms of oil equivalent (koe). The koe is a measurement of the units of energy equal to what’s generated by one kilo of crude oil per capita (the US Energy Information Agency also present comparison of this kind, but uses British thermal units or Btu). All types of energy can be broken down to koe, no matter what is the source of the energy, such as fossil fuels, nuclear energy, renewable energy etc. Note that when comparing energy consumption per capita, the World Bank refers to to indigenous production plus imports and stock changes, minus exports and fuels supplied to ships and aircraft engaged in international transport-use of primary energy before transformation to other end-use fuels, which is equal.

To most of our readers it is probably a quite well-known fact that people and companies in North America are among the world’s greatest oil and energy consumers (USA has only 5% of the global population but uses close to 20% of the global energy used each year). And it is certainly true that USA and Canada are among the greatest energy users. However, they only come as number eight and nine on the top-ten list of the world’s largest energy consuming nations per capita. The list is as following:

1.   Iceland                                18,774 koe
2.   Qatar                                   17,418 koe
3.   Trinidad and Tobago          15,691 koe
4.   Kuwait                                 10,408 koe
5.   Brunei                                   9,427 koe
6.   Luxembourg                         7,684 koe
7.   UAE                                      7,407 koe
8.   Canada                                7,333 koe
9.   USA                                      6,793 koe
10. Finland                                  6,183 koe

Energy-Use-per-capita-2011-2

Here we are not going to explain in details the reasons why the top-ten countries consume so much energy. However, it is quite clear that one of the main reason for scoring high on the list is a mixture of abundance of low-cost energy resources and fairly low population (at least this applies to the top-seven countries on the list). And the abundant domestic energy resources are fossil fuels and/or hydropower; the most economic energy sources we have access to here on our planet.

Many of the countries on this top-ten list are among the world’s largest producers of oil and gas. In some of these countries, the prices for the fossil fuel products are very low, resulting in more consumption than in countries were the prices are higher. This may, for example, apply to gasoline prices and to prices for electricity generated by burning natural gas. In addition, many of the counties in the list have major energy intensive industries (like aluminum smelters and LNG industry). These industries use cheap domestic energy resources, like electricity generated by natural gas. The result is very high energy use per capita in countries like Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago, Kuwait, Brunei and UAE (note that when using less recent numbers than Oilprice does, Trinidad and Tobago and Qatar switch the 2nd and 3rd place, as can be seen on the chart from Gapminder below; for other sources note IEA/NationMaster and OECD).

Worlds-largest-energy-consuming-countries-Gapminder-2010

So fossil fuels bring many of the Persian Gulf states on the top-ten list, plus Brunei and Trinidad and Tobago. Luxembourg, however, is one country on the list which is heavily dependent on energy imports. Thus, Luxembourg’s high energy use per capita can not be explained by access to abundant and cheap energy sources. The high ratio of energy use in Luxembourg has been partly explained by the low sales taxes on petroleum products, which encourage motorists and other consumers from neighbouring countries (Belgium, France and Germany) to buy their supplies in Luxembourg.

Interestingly, countries with huge energy resources do not necessarily make it to the top-ten list. This, for example, applies to Norway, which has both enormous oil- and gas resources and is a major producer of hydropower. Still, Norway is not on the top-ten list of the largest energy users per capita (although it comes very close).

USA of course has a long history of being an industrial giant, utilizing its large coal and natural gas resources and is one of the main oil consuming countries in the world (even per capita). For the USA, nuclear power and hydropower is also of great importance as sources of energy. Same applies to Finland, which has very substantial energy intensive pulp and paper industry. The same can be said about Canada, which also has a large aluminum industry.

Icelandic-Energy-Basics-2012Iceland is somewhat unique when it comes to energy. It is the world’s largest hydropower country per capita, the world’s largest geothermal energy producer per capita, and the world’s largest electricity producer per capita. Iceland’s competitively priced electricity (from hydro- and geothermal power) has attracted numerous industries and services. Currently, the aluminum industry in Iceland consumes close to 75% of all the electricity produced in Iceland (of course Iceland’s location result in large amounts of energy being used by logistics, but as already mentioned energy use in international transportation is not included when comparing countries energy use per capita).

This, with Iceland’s large fleet of fishing vessels and high automobile ownership, are the most important reasons for why Iceland is the world’s largest energy user per capita. But keep in mind that very high share of Iceland’s energy comes from renewable sources, making Iceland one of the greenest country in the world with regard to energy consumption. In total, approximately 86% of Iceland’s consumption of primary energy comes from renewable sources. And what is especially interesting, is the fact that Iceland still has access to numerous competitive renewable energy sources yet to be harnessed.

EIA: Iceland tops Europe’s no-carbon list

Europe-No-Carbon-Electricity-Generation-EIA-2012-1Countries of Europe are increasing electricity generation using no-carbon sources. According to the US Energy Information Administration, Iceland is at the top of the list of no-carbon electricity generation countries in Europe. Electricity generation in Iceland is 100% from no-carbon hydro- and geothermal power sources, and the country is completely self-sufficient in electricity supply.

Only France, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland generate more than 90% of their net electricity from no-carbon sources (data from 2012). Only in Iceland and Norway this number of no-carbon electricity sources was 100%.

Eight other countries had no-carbon electricity accounting for at least 50% of their generation. Countries in Europe generate most of their no-carbon electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric sources, along with a smaller portfolio of other renewables.  No-carbon sources generate power while releasing virtually no carbon dioxide emissions. This includes geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar (both utility scale and distributed solar), tidal, and wind generation (although biomass power plants emit carbon dioxide during operation, the full life cycle of biomass fuels is often considered to be carbon neutral for the purposes of satisfying these countries’ goals).

Europe-No-Carbon-Electricity-Generation-EIA-2012-2 Penetration rates of no-carbon generation have increased from 50% to 56% in recent years in Europe, as European Union countries (EU) work toward renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions targets. The share of no-carbon generation in European countries is expected to continue to increase, as the EU’s 2020 Climate and Energy Package targets both a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in the share of energy consumption generated from renewable sources.

Main source: US Energy Information Administration.

Iceland and Greenland as strategic energy storage for peak load demand

In 2004, the engineering giant ABB marked the 50th anniversary of its pioneering of high voltage direct current technology (HVDC). In the decade that has passed since then, we have experienced numerous new world records regarding the HVDC technology. An electric cable between Europe and America is probably becoming a question of when, not if.

Strong HVDC technology advancement

The first submarine HVDC cable was commissioned in 1954. The cable connected the island of Gotland (in the Baltic Sea) with the mainland of Sweden. This was a 100 kV subsea cable with a capacity of 20 MW and the length was 90 km.

HVDC-Europe-Subsea-2014As earlier mentioned, this first HVDC subsea cable was constructed by ABB in 1954. Fifty years later, in 2004, ABB proudly looked back to its HVDC achievements. Which included the highest voltage cable in the world (600 kV cable in Brazil), the longest HVDC line and highest converter power rate (in China), and the world’s longest underground cable (Murray Link in Australia).

Another of ABB’s achievements in its 50 year history of HVDC technology, was the world’s longest submarine electric cable; the 260 km long Baltic Cable between Sweden and Germany, which began operation in 1994. Now, a decade later, ABB still holds the world record of the longest submarine HVDC cable. It was in 2006 that construction started of the 580 km Norned cable between Norway and Netherlands. ABB supplied the main part of the NorNed cable as well as the converter stations at both ends. With 450 kV DC, the NorNed now has the highest voltage rating of all submarine HVDC cables (on pair with two other cables in the Baltic).

The next world-record-length for a submarine HVDC cable will probably be a cable that will connect Norway and the UK. The cable length will be close to or a little more than 700 km. The planned capacity is 1,400 MW (double the capacity of NorNed) and the voltage 500 kV. Yet, this new cable between Norway and UK will not have the highest voltage of all submarine HVDC cables. Currently, Prysmian and Siemens are constructing the first HVDC subsea cable link in the world with a voltage of 600 kV. This project is the the 420 km UK Western Link between Scotland and Wales.

This high voltage of 600 kV helps increase line capacity by 20% and reduces transmission losses by nearly a third. The Western Link will also set a new world record for capacity of subsea HVDC cables, as it will have a transmission capacity of 2,200 MW. It is Siemens that will be delivering the HVDC converter stations, and Prysmian, which will deliver the cable.

Electric cable(s) between Europe and America

The longest electric HVDC cables on land today are 2,000-2,500 km long. (cables in Brazil and China). It is unclear when submarine electric cables will be as long. But it is evident that we will soon experience subsea cables that will be more than 700 km long and operate at more than 600 kV. Predicting further into the future, it seems realistic that the development of the subsea cable technology will reflect what has been happening on land.

HVDC-Europe-America_Hydro-Power_Askja-Energy-Partners-Map-2It is probably just a matter of time until the first electrical cable will be laid across the Atlantic. Cables from Greenland to North America and/ or Europe would be 2,000-3,500 km long. A submarine HVDC cable between Greenland and Iceland could be as short as 800 km. This is a very interesting fact, as Greenland has enormous hydropower resources, that could be utilized as a a peak power source for areas in Europe (where electricity prices are among the highest in the world).

The idea of an electric subsea cable between Europe and America may sound like a fantasy. And it is quite possible that the combined length and depth will stand in the way for such a project. However, as 700 km subsea HVDC cables at 600 kV are becoming a reality, and the deepest subsea electric cables today are already working well at a depth in the range of 1500-1700 m, it seems that cables between Europe and Iceland, Iceland and Greenland, and Greenland and Canada (North America) are all becoming technically possible within a decade or few decades from now.

Renewable-Energy-Integration_Practical-Management-of-Variability-Uncertainty-and-Flexibility-in-Power-Grids_2014Therefore, it is no surprise that it is becoming increasingly more common to see for example articles in international academic journals focusing on the potential of electric cables between Europe and North America. However, in the literature the focus is surprisingly often primarily on the potential of harnessing the wind power (in both Greenland and Iceland). The best opportunity offered by HVDC cables connecting Greenland and/ or Iceland with Canada and/ or Europe, is definitely to utilize the great hydropower resources (and reservoirs) for high demand peak load power. The hydropower is not only a less costly process to generate electricity than wind power; hydropower is also much more reliable and controllable power source than wind. Therefore, the hydropwer has great possibilities for maximizing the profitability of energy production, by producing and selling electricity only at day time when electricity prices are highest and receive more water in the reservoirs at night time.

The total hydropower resources in Greenland are believed to be equivalent to 800 TWh annually. By harnessing only approximately 1-2% of that would be enough supply more than two HVDC cables. Iceland already has a large hydropower sector, based on large reservoirs and modern generating stations, where it is possible to add capacity (turbines) at very low-cost. Thus, Greenland and Iceland could develop a perfect strategic partnership in supplying Europe with peak load energy.

Icelandic researchers transforming the geothermal industry?

“The worldwide market is moving towards double-digit growth,” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) during the organization’s recent International Geothermal Showcase in Washington, DC. “There’s lots of exciting things going on. Several years ago there were projects in 24 countries, this year almost 700 projects are under development in 76 countries across the globe.”

Iceland_Geothermal_Deep_Drilling_ExplainedWhat is especially interesting in this context, is how researchers in Iceland have found a new way to transform the heat generated by volcanic magma into electricity. The advancement could be especially valuable in Iceland, that has capitalized to derive a quarter of its electricity production and around 90 per cent of household heating from geothermal energy.

The Icelandic know-how may be creating interesting possibilities for high-growth in utilization of geothermal resources worldwide. Currently, the main interest seems to be from the United States (USA). In the western USA, geothermal prospects are on the rise, especially in Nevada and California. California already has the largest geothermal field in the world, the Geysers, which contains 22 geothermal power plants amid 45-square miles in the Mayacamas Mountains north of San Francisco.

With greenhouse gases rising just as sharply as energy production, climate change is creating a similar global push for a paradigm shift to clean, sustainable sources in the electricity sector. In all this, geothermal has a powerful role to play. Unlike intermittent renewable power sources, such as wind and solar, geothermal can provide consistent energy 24-hours a day, making it an appealing baseload replacement for coal and nuclear power that are responsible for keeping the power supply stable and reliable.

Krafla-geothemal-power-stationWhile electricity-generating geothermal technology is advancing, the bulk of the time and cost expended goes to exploration and drilling for the resource. Recent advances in oil and gas drilling, which can translate over to geothermal sensing, exploration and drilling techniques, are helping to facilitate innovation in the area. And because geothermal energy is not intermittent like wind or solar power, which generate when the wind blows or sun shines, it can fill the role that has long been played by fossil fuels and serve as a baseload power source. That not only helps to lower emissions but provides needed stability to the electric grid.

Internationally, the geothermal industry is growing fast. The new GEA report (pdf) released at the recent GEA showcase found that there were almost 700 projects under development in dozens of countries across the globe. With the international power market booming, geothermal showed a sustained growth rate of around five per cent. And the best thing about this expansion of geothermal energy, is that it competes with other energy sources on a pure cost basis.

The Bitcoin mines of Iceland

Earlier this month (December 2013), an article in the New York Times told us about the mines of bitcoin that are situated “on the flat lava plain of Reykjanesbær” in Iceland. This article, and several other recent articles in the world’s media about bitcoin, have put a limelight on Iceland’s extremely reliable hydro- and geothermal power. Where companies are offered long time electricity contracts at excellent predictable rates. And the bitcoin mines in Iceland are good example of how Iceland is well situated as a very accessible data storage centre.

Bitcoin-imageBitcoin is of course the decentralized digital currency and payment network, created few years ago by pseudonymous  developer Satoshi Nakamoto. The bitcoin network is based on an open source protocol, which makes use of a public transaction log. A master-list of all bitcoin transactions shows who owns what bitcoins currently and in the past, and is maintained by a decentralized network that verifies and timestamps payments. The operators of this network, known as miners, are rewarded with transaction fees and newly minted bitcoins.

As more Bitcoin are mined, increasingly greater amounts of computing power, and thus electricity, are required. The fastest miners on the market now sell for thousands of dollars, on top of whatever electricity costs you have to pay to keep what amounts to a supercomputer running 24/7. So how do you keep those costs in check? According to Business Insider you of course pool your resources and move to Iceland.

At the data centre facility in Reykjanesbær in Southwest Iceland, where you can find the Bitcoin mines, more than houndred whirring silver computers are the laborers of the virtual mines where Bitcoins are unearthed. To get there, you pass through a fortified gate and enter a featureless yellow building. After checking in with a guard behind bulletproof glass, you face four more security checkpoints, including a so-called man trap that allows passage only after the door behind you has shut.

The custom-built computers, securely locked cabinet and each cooled by blasts of Arctic air shot up from vents in the floor, are running an open-source Bitcoin program. They perform complex algorithms 24 hours a day. If they come up with the right answers before competitors around the world do, they win a block of 25 new Bitcoins from the virtual currency’s decentralized network. The network is programmed to release 21 million coins eventually. A little more than half are already out in the world, but because the system will release Bitcoins at a progressively slower rate, the work of mining could take more than 100 years.

Bitcoin-Iceland-Data-Centre-Emmanuel-Abiodun

“What we have here are money-printing machines,” said Emmanuel Abiodun, 31, founder of the company that built the Iceland installation, shouting above the din of the computers. “We cannot risk that anyone will get to them.”

Mr. Abiodun was a computer programmer at HSBC in London when he decided to invest in specialized computers that would carry out constant Bitcoin mining. He is one of a number of entrepreneurs who have rushed, gold-fever style, into large-scale Bitcoin mining operations in just the last few months. These entrepreneurs or digital miners believe that Bitcoin will turn into a new, cheaper way of sending money around the world, leaving behind its current status as a largely speculative commodity.

The computers that do the work eat up so much energy that electricity costs can be the deciding factor in profitability. There are Bitcoin mining installations in Hong Kong and Washington State, among other places, but Mr. Abiodun chose Iceland, where geothermal and hydroelectric energy are plentiful and cheap. And the arctic air is free and piped in to cool the machines, which often overheat when they are pushed to the outer limits of their computing capacity. And Mr. Abiodun prides himself on using renewable power.

In just a few months, that installation has generated more than $4 million worth of Bitcoins, at the current value, according to the company’s account on the public Bitcoin network. He is also expanding his Icelandic operation, shipping in about 66 machines that have been running for the last few months near their manufacturer in Ukraine. Mr. Abiodun said that by February, he hopes to have about 15 percent of the entire computing power of the Bitcoin network, significantly more than any other operation.

Verne-Global-data-centre-iceland-low-cost-green-powerToday, all of the machines dedicated to mining Bitcoin have a computing power about 4,500 times the capacity of the United States government’s mightiest supercomputer, the IBM Sequoia, according to calculations done by Michael B. Taylor, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. The computing capacity of the Bitcoin network has grown by around 30,000 percent since the beginning of the year.

Inside the Iceland data center, which also hosts servers for large companies like BMW and is guarded and maintained by the company Verne Global, strapping Icelandic men in black outfits were at work recently setting up the racks for the machines coming from Ukraine. Gazing over his creation, Mr. Abiodun had a look that was somewhere between pride and anxiety, and spoke about the virtues of this Icelandic facility where the power has not gone down once. This is no surprise, as it is a known fact that the Icelandic electricity system is one of the most reliable in the world.

Iceland and Ethiopia in geothermal cooperation

The Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) and the Ethiopian Government have signed a Partnership Agreement for geothermal surface exploration and capacity building for geothermal development in Ethiopia.

Iceida-logoThe Ethiopian government is currently implementing a strategy to develop its renewable energy resources, including geothermal side by side with hydro, in order to increase energy production. The cooperation between iceland and Ethiopia is the second project initiated under an agreement on geothermal energy between Iceland and the World Bank (the first agreement of this kind is already under way in Rwanda). The immediate objective of the project is to identify potential sites for exploration drilling in the target areas and develop capacity in Ethiopia to advance geothermal energy production in the country.

The overall objective is to assist the Government to increase renewable energy production through low emission geothermal energy development for social and economic benefit. ICEIDA will assist the implementing agencies with finalizing geothermal surface explorations and associated geophysical and geochemical studies to identify locations for drilling of exploration and production wells in target sites.

Ethiopea-Dallol-GeothermalEthiopia is considered to have geothermal potential up to 5,000 MW. The Ethiopian Government has now decided to prioritize geothermal development as a key area in energy development. The geothermal surface exploration activities in Ethiopia will focus on the areas of Tendaho Alalobeda and Aluto Langano, both considered to have great potential for energy production. A capacity building project for geothermal exploration will also be initiated in the area of Gedemsa. The implementing agencies in Ethiopia are the Geological Survey of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation.

China and Iceland strengthen geothermal cooperation

Iceland has signed a free trade agreement with China, becoming the first European country to do so.

Iceland-China-Free-Trade-Agreement-april-2013-2Iceland’s Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson signed the deal with China’s Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng in Beijing couple of days ago, bringing to a close six years of talks. The free trade agreement will lower tariffs on a range of goods and is expected to boost seafood and other exports from Iceland to the world’s second-largest economy.

During talks following a formal welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in the center of Beijing, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the free trade agreement was “a major event in China-Iceland relations”. He added that the agreement will “increase the soundness of business transactions and presumably the interest among Chinese and Icelandic companies that are cooperating in geothermal power”.

China is already benefiting from Iceland’s expertise after 80 Chinese students graduated from the United Nations University Geothermal Program in Reykjavik. The signature of the free trade agreement between China and Iceland comes only a year after the countries signed a special deal  to increase co-operation in the development of geothermal energy. 

When in Iceland in April 2012, China’s then-Premier Wen Jiabao concluded the agreement during the first stage of a four-nation European tour.

China-Geothermal-AreaIceland is on the forefront in geothermal energy utilization and is going to work with China, the world’s largest energy consumer, to develop geothermal resources. In an effort to meet an exponentially growing energy demand, as well as reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, China has become a leading investor in alternative energy technologies. China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), the second largest oil and gas producer in the country, plans to make geothermal energy one of its main businesses.

The geothermal strategic partnership with China offers Iceland serious economic potential. Iceland is already working with India, countries in East Africa, Abu Dhabi, and several western countries to develop geothermal power projects. Geothermal energy resources are widely discovered in China, making the country riche in geothermal energy. The country is still in its infancy of developing and utilizing these natural resources, thus offering a huge market potential.

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.”

%d bloggers like this: