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IRENA hosts a seminar on the status of the global geothermal market in Abu Dhabi, UAE


IRENA hosts a seminar on the status of the global geothermal market in Abu Dhabi, UAE
25th International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Council Meeting in Abu Dhabi, 23-24 May 2023 (Source: IRENA)

As part of the council meeting, IRENA hosted a discussion on the current state of the global geothermal market and technology, attended by 16 countries.

25 daysday International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Board of Governors meeting on 23-24 May 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the IAEA organized a dedicated Panel discussion on the global status of geothermal markets and technologiesPromoting the role of geothermal in the energy transition.

During the discussion, the main findings recent publications By IRENA and the International Geothermal Association (IGA) in Global Geothermal Alliance (GGA) entitled “Global Geothermal Market and Technology Assessment was introduced. The publication highlights the current status, challenges and opportunities of geothermal in power, heating and cooling applications, as well as emerging trends that are likely to drive growth in the coming years.

As part of the discussion, sixteen (16) countries provided brief discussions highlighting their plans for geothermal development and its contribution to domestic, regional and global energy transitions. Expressed active support for a more prominent role for geothermal energy in future development opportunities, noting that similar barriers exist across countries.

It was also noted that increased cooperation among countries, including through the GGA, would be beneficial in strengthening current efforts to expand geothermal energy globally. Members noted the importance of urgently addressing the investment challenges facing geothermal energy compared to other renewable energy technologies.

“Geothermal energy potential in different regions remains largely untapped,” said Gurbuz Gonul, Director of National Engagement and Partnerships, IRENA. “International collaboration will facilitate its deployment, including the sharing of global best practices and insights for the benefit of the geothermal industry. In this context, IRENA is coordinating the Global Geothermal Alliance, a platform to strengthen dialogue, cooperation and coordinated actions among stakeholders to accelerate geothermal deployment. “

Legal and regulatory frameworks are key enablers

Since 2000, the geothermal industry has grown at an average annual rate of around 3.5%, reaching 16 GW of installed electricity capacity by 2021. Growth accelerates slightly between 2015 and 2021, at about 5%, but this still accounts for only 0.5% of the world’s installed renewable energy capacity. At the same time, geothermal heating and cooling applications are growing even faster, by about 9% between 2015 and 2020, reaching 107 GW of thermal energy in 2020, accounting for about 3% of the world’s installed renewable energy heating and cooling capacity.

In recent years, the growth of the geothermal market has been driven by developments in Indonesia, Kenya, Turkey, and the United States. Countries face challenges in attracting investment in geothermal development, although data from new power plants commissioning in 2021 show that geothermal energy can generate electricity very competitively at a levelized cost of electricity of $0.068/kWh.

This issue is due to the higher perceived risk and higher upfront capital expenditures in the early stages of exploration compared to other energy technologies. Other challenges relate to policy and regulatory frameworks, institutional and technical expertise, and technological advancements, which affect both power generation and heating and cooling.

According to the report, legal and regulatory framework, incentives, and risk mitigation tools are the key drivers for the growth of the geothermal market. Risk mitigation plans are especially helpful in addressing resource risks associated with geothermal development at the early stages of development. These programs are applied in different ways depending on the level of development of the geothermal market. In emerging markets, public funding is primarily used to mitigate risk, while resource risk insurance programs are typically applied in mature markets where geothermal portfolios exist.

Develop medium and low temperature resources

In recent years, several trends have emerged that could lead to a broad expansion of geothermal development and utilization. For example, the development and utilization of medium and low temperature geothermal resources have been valued because of their wide distribution. The key drivers for the development of medium and low temperature resources are technological advances in utilizing these resources, such as binary cycle technologies for power generation and the growing demand for sustainable and safe supplies of energy for heating and cooling.

Binary technology allows geothermal power plants to operate in a flexible manner, which is ideal for stabilizing grids with high penetration of variable renewable energy. As a result, the deployment of binary power plants has increased to more than 50% of new plants commissioned between 2015 and 2021, up from just 12% before 2000.

At the same time, the use of geothermal in agri-food and industrial heating and cooling applications, as well as district heating and cooling, is also growing. Driven by the decarbonization agenda and ensuring domestic energy demand, countries may increase the development and utilization of medium and low temperature resources.

The report makes the following recommendations for policymakers, project developers, industry leaders and financiers to consider:

  • Promote the extensive development and utilization of various available geothermal energy.
  • Geothermal as a key energy solution driving the energy transition to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and climate action.
  • Improve supportive frameworks to facilitate investment in geothermal energy.
  • Promote cross-sectoral synergy and coordination between geothermal and other sectors.
  • Promote technological innovation, research and development to scale up geothermal development.
  • Strengthen international, regional and national cooperation among partners.

Source: Email correspondence


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