Tag Archives: geothermal

Geothermal, a Hot Topic in El Salvador

Central American countries seek to bring geothermal to the forefront of future energy development plans

1,500 kilometres long, Central America’s volcanic arc consists of hundreds of volcanoes — from sky scrapping stratovolcanoes like Guatemala’s 4,202 metre Volcán Tajumulco, to crater lakes like El Salvador’s Ilopango — the very ground of this ocean-separating, continent-connecting, ribbon of land, moves.

The region’s unique geothermal activity is the result of what geologists call subduction: one tectonic plate, the Cocos Plate, moving under others, the Caribbean and North American plates, forcing earth, magma, and heat to the surface. While this does result in life-threatening earthquakes and volcanoes, the geothermal heat released provides a largely untapped energy that the region’s countries are now resolved to harness. Continue reading Geothermal, a Hot Topic in El Salvador

Harnessing the Earth’s Heat for Climate Action

Tapping into the earth’s heat to produce geothermal energy offers the world enormous benefits. Proven resources exist in nearly 90 countries, but 90% of it still remains underground. For this reason, IRENA hosted a high-level workshop during COP21 to discuss the potential of this promising source of renewable energy, and ways to overcome the barriers which hold it back.

First some good news:

Mr. Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland – the world’s leader in harvesting geothermal energy – explained that 90% of all space-heating and close to 30% of all electricity in Iceland comes from geothermal sources. And that share will continue to grow as a result of vigorous expansion plans.

Mrs. Soifiat Tadjiddine Alfeine of Comoros described how the island is currently exploring its geothermal potential, and is in the planning phase for a 10MW geothermal plant with support from New Zealand. It is expected that geothermal energy could play a major role in addressing the island’s energy needs.

Indonesia plans to invest USD 20 billion to install an additional 2GW of capacity over the next 10 years, tripling its current installed capacity.


As for the less good news:

Speakers identified a range of challenges which the industry faces. These include: risks of exploration; high upfront development costs; human resource limitations; and regulatory difficulties. Moreover the simple lack of awareness about the promise and benefits of geothermal energy is a major barrier to its development – but also perhaps the easiest to overcome in the end. It was emphasized, however, that none of these obstacles are insurmountable.

Which brings us to some very good news:

On December 7, Energy Day at COP21, the Global Geothermal Alliance (GGA) will formally launch. The GGA will address investment challenges and help create the conditions for a rapid expansion of this key renewable resource. Its aim will be to break through existing barriers and achieve a 500% increase in global installed capacity for geothermal power generation, and a 200% increase in geothermal heating by 2030.

In development for two years, the GGA has attracted more than 40 countries and institutional partners. Its ambition will be nothing short of ensuring hundreds of millions of people are able to benefit from this clean and reliable source of renewable energy.

A Look at IRENA’s Geothermal Initiative in the Andes

Geothermal energy is an abundant resource in the Andean region that has enormous potential to provide low-cost clean energy, though it remains largely untapped. The total geothermal resource capacity of the region is approximately 12 gigawatts, which equals the total installed global geothermal capacity in 2014. Despite such considerable and unique geothermal energy potential, no geothermal power plants are operating to date as Andean countries still face challenges. In this context, IRENA, together with the government of Colombia, recently co-organised a two-day workshop to address this issue. The event focused on: identifying the main barriers that Andean countries face in financing geothermal projects; and disseminating best practices.

The main obstacle for geothermal power investment and development is the high upfront costs of surface geophysical studies and drilling to explore for geothermal resources. But once a geothermal project is in operation, it can generate electricity at a low cost. With a combination of renewable technologies in place, a country could reap many rewards. Take for example, the workshop’s host country, Colombia, which stands to earn USD 775 million, or USD 221 million net, from implementing renewable energy incentives in the next 15 years. The measures, defined by the renewable energy law from 2014, will support, among other renewable energy technologies, geothermal power.

Participants at the IRENA Initiative for the Promotion of Geothermal Energy in the Andean Region Workshop

The workshop is part of IRENA’s Geothermal Initiative in the Andes, which was launched in cooperation with the Latin America Energy Organisation (OLADE) and the International Geothermal Association (IGA) to support the geothermal development of the Andean countries. The initiative includes the support from countries with substantial geothermal experience including Iceland, New Zealand, France and Mexico.

The Initiative seeks to: address policy uncertainty, a shortage of skilled professionals and perceived environmental issues and licensing that prevent a wider adoption of geothermal energy; present risk mitigation instruments and regional risk mitigation facilities to mitigate resource risk and identify conditions for governments to create the right investment environment for geothermal projects.

As a result of an initial workshop in Iceland in 2013, three key areas of support for the Initiative were identified:

  • Legal frameworks to complement the existing regulatory geothermal norms to further develop enabling conditions for investments;
  • Capacity building, and;
  • Access to finance and dissemination of innovative models to finance operations, including geothermal reinsurance and risk mitigation funds.

The Initiative is helping energy experts in Colombia and other countries in the region develop plans in reaching renewable goals.

“As a Government, we are committed to promoting non-conventional renewable energy sources, not only to contribute to achieving the commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 per cent by 2030 , but also to harness the potential of available renewable resources in the country, and to diversify the generation mix and ensure sustainable development of the sector” – Jorge Valencia, Director of the Mining and Energy Planning Unit, UPME of Colombia

“The energy policy of the Government of Colombia includes the diversification of energy sources and finding innovative solutions that takes into account the current environmental needs of the planet. It is from this that we derive these geothermal projects, to which we ascribe all the importance of this moment, in this country, to achieve all of our desired goals.” – Maria Victoria Reyes Mesa, Head of Environmental and Social issues, Ministry of Mines and Energy, Colombia

Read about Past Events of the Geothermal Initiative of the Andes:

Workshop in Peru on legal and regulatory frameworks

Technical training workshop in Santiago, Chile to provide a general introduction to geothermal science, engineering, project cycles, investment, and regulation.

IRENA Tool on Global Geothermal Potentials

Map Your Energy, Tweet and Win!

Show your Twitter chops, learn more about renewable energy potentials worldwide, AND enter to win a Crosskase solar charging backpack with just one Tweet!

Between now and 30 September, download IRENA’s Global Atlas pocket – a free mobile tool that can show you the renewable energy potential for any location in the world – and complete the following steps to enter:

  1. Open the app and select a location
  2. Add a layer of the renewable energy technology of your choice
  3. Share the map on Twitter
  4. Hashtag your country or region, the energy source, and add to the existing text in the share window. Make sure to include the #GlobalAtlas hashtag and @IRENA in your entry.
  5. Tweet it!

10 winners will be chosen from the participants, plus one winner for the Tweet with the most re-Tweets.

Here are a few examples:

Mapping renewable energy potential around the world through @IRENA’s #GlobalAtlas #solar #Mali

Global Atlas

Global Atlas

Mapping renewable energy potential around the world through @IRENA’s #GlobalAtlas #wind #Japan

Global Atlas Pocket

Global Atlas Pocket

The Global Atlas pocket is now available on all platforms including BlackBerry® 10, iOS, Android™ and Windows Phone®. Download the Global Atlas pocket for free:

The Global Atlas pocket app combines 1,000 maps from 67 governments and 50 data centres to provide reliable information on renewable energy resources, from major cities, to isolated islands, to remote deserts. It transforms your mobile device into a prospector for renewable energy. To learn how to use the app, watch the tutorial:

Renewable Energy Track At COP21: RE-Energising the Future

After years of negotiations between 193 countries, the climate conference in Paris (COP21) is expected to be a turning point in the fight against climate change. The energy sector, accounting for some two-thirds of all global emissions, must be a top priority for action if we are to keep global temperature rise below 2°C.

Accordingly, for the first time at any UN climate conference, renewable energy solutions will be showcased in a series of high profile events. This renewable energy track, named RE-Energising the Future (#REenergise), will demonstrate that renewable energy deployment offers a realistic means to meet our climate goals.

This page will house the most up-to-date information about IRENA’s activities at COP 21. Check back for more information as it becomes available.

Event Details Event Description Event Partners
1 December
8:45am – 10:00am
@ Peruvian Pavilion
Global Geothermal Alliance High-Level Event
A high-level event for GGA member countries and partner institution to present concrete actions towards the accelerated deployment of geothermal energy.
GGA brochure (PDF)


2 December
6:00pm – 7:30pm
@ German Pavilion
The SIDS Lighthouses Initiative, High-Level Event
IRENA and BMUB of Germany will host a high-level panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges of advancing renewable energy deployment on islands. SIDS Lighthouses Initiative brochure (PDF)


4 – 5 December
RE-Energising Thematic RE Workshops
This series of thematic workshops, led by different organizational partners, will focus opportunities and benefits offered by renewables in a range of sectors. 

4 December:

5 December:

  • RE in the MENA Region
    11.00am – 12.30pm @ GCC Pavilion

RE track partners (EC, IRENA, REN21, UAE, SER)

5 December
9:30am – 5:30pm  @UNFCCC Blue Zone, Plenary 2
Lima Paris Action Agenda Day
This day will showcase high-level action across a broad range of sectors being addressed in the Lima-Paris Action Agenda.


6 December
9:30am – 7:00pm
@ Palais Brongniart Paris
RE-Energising the Future, High-Level Event
High-level speakers will share their visions for a future powered by renewable energy. CEOs will describe what it took to get their companies to go for 100% renewables; government leaders will describe their ambitious plans for scaling up renewable energy investments; and industry leaders will describe innovations and breakthroughs for faster deployment. By special invitation only

RE track partners (EC, IRENA, REN21, UAE, SER)

7 December

Press conference:
9:15am – 10:00am
Press Conference Room 1
Hall 2

10:15am – 6:40pm
@ UNFCCC Blue Zone, Hall 4, Room 10

LPAA Energy Day at COP21
This is Energy Day at COP21. Major announcements will be made: new commitments, action plans, coalitions, innovative solutions etc. The morning session will focus on renewable energy and the afternoon session will focus on energy efficiency/access.

IRENA and Sustainable Energy for All

9 December
10:00 – 11:30am
@ Peruvian Pavilion
Sustainable Energy Marketplace – Caribbean & Latin America
IRENA and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have partnered to expand the Sustainable Energy Marketplace to Latin America and the Caribbean. The online platform connects project developers, financiers, and service providers to encourage and support the development and financial closure of sustainable energy projects. Marketplace brochure (PDF)


9 December
2:00 – 4:30pm
@ African Pavilion
Africa Clean Energy Corridor
This event, directed towards Africa Clean Energy Corridor (ACEC) stakeholders, will highlight progress made to date and plans for future growth of the initiative. ACEC brochure (PDF)


Microsoft Word - RETrackCommsTemplate[1].docx

Leaders Endorse Action Plan to Increase Island Renewables

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) now have an action plan to increase their domestic deployment of renewable energy. The Martinique Action Plan (MAP), developed during a June conference in Martinique, outlines practical steps for deployment of renewable energy resources and technologies on SIDS. The MAP focuses largely on the development of wind, marine, geothermal and biomass, but stresses all renewable energy sources are needed for the transition to a sustainable future. The MAP also focuses on waste-to-energy systems to manage waste streams on islands, renewable desalination systems to meet growing island water needs, and measures for boosting renewable generation on power grids.

“The Martinique Action Plan aims to advance the goal of mobilizing the human, financial and technical resources to sustainably transition the energy systems of SIDS. It will live and grow as the basis for follow-up events in Hawaii in July, in Bangkok in August, and in Cape Town in September – all on the road to Paris in December.” – Henning Wuester, IRENA Director of Knowledge Policy and Finance

IRENA's Henning Wuester speaking with media in Martinique
IRENA’s Henning Wuester speaking with media in Martinique

Hugh Sealy, ‎Lead Negotiator for AOSIS, the Association of Small Island Developing States, said the MAP could form a solid basis for immediate actions by islands and partners to mitigate and strengthen resilience to climate change to showcase the positive contribution of renewable energy at the Paris UN climate change negotiations in December. The MAP also emphasizes the transformational nature of renewable energy on islands and the need for the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders, including at the community level. The Martinique Conference on Island Energy Transitions, held under the theme, “Pathways for Accelerated Uptake of Renewables”, took place in Fort-de-France, Martinique from June 22-24. Attendees included government officials, companies and utilities involved in renewable energy development, banks interested in financing renewable energy development, experts in renewable energy resource assessment, and development partners. The conference was held under the umbrella of the SIDS IRENA’s Island Lighthouse Initiative, launched at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in 2014. With 27 SIDS and 19 Development partners, the initiative aims to:

  • Mobilize USD 500 million
  • Deploy 100 MW of new solar PV
  • Deploy 20 MW of new wind power
  • Deploy small hydropower, geothermal energy and a number  of marine technology projects (in progress)
  • Ensure all participating SIDS develop renewable energy road maps

By speeding the uptake of renewable energy on islands around the world, the Lighthouse Initiative will enable SIDS to lead by example on climate change though maximizing the use of indigenous, clean and plentiful renewable energy in a structured, holistic approach to ensure long-term sustainability.

Event photos

Event media coverage:

Fiji, Vanuatu and the Marshall Islands Can Win Big with Renewables

The Pacific Islands are perhaps best known for their beautiful beaches, azure waters and rich sea life, but they are rich in something else as well: renewable energy.

Three recent assessments of renewable energy potential on the island states found that a combination of solar, wind, geothermal, marine, biomass and bio-fuel could meet their domestic energy needs while decreasing electricity costs, increasing energy access, and boosting their energy independence.

Vanuatu has abundant renewable energy resources, including solar, geothermal, wind, biomass and biofuel, but is still dependent on imported fossil fuels. In recent years, the high cost of imported energy has hampered social and economic development. Accordingly, the government created a National Energy Roadmap, which aims to increase the share of renewables in the nation’s energy mix from 43% today to 63% by 2030. The Vanuatu Renewables Readiness Assessment outlines achievements towards this end and identifies areas for further action including capacity building and the development of off-grid renewables to bring modern energy services to the 83% of rural residents currently without.

Home Solar Panel
Rooftop solar panels

The Marshall Islands is rich in solar and wind potential, but, like Vanuatu, depends heavily on fossil fuel imports. After declaring a state of economic emergency following a 2008 fuel price spike, the government enacted the National Energy Policy and the Energy Action Plan, which aim to improve lives through renewable energy deployment. Since then, thousands of solar installations have taken place on households in the outer islands, but wind potential has yet to be explored. The Marshall Islands Renewables Readiness Assessment outlines areas for further action, which include improving institutional coordination, planning for off-grid renewables and addressing fuel drum leakage.

Fiji also depends heavily on imported petroleum-based fuels, which affects energy security and energy prices. As the costs of renewable energy technologies decline, Fiji is making more use of its renewable energy resources including hydropower, biomass, solar, geothermal and wind energy. Fiji’s National Energy Policy finds that it could feasibly achieve 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, but reaching this target will require more action. The Fiji Renewables Readiness Assessment recommends implementing the National Energy Policy, improving coordination between agencies and exploring renewable-powered maritime transport and geothermal energy.

“The development of local renewable resources in these island nations would decrease their dependency on fuel imports and reduce risks associated with oil price volatility. The falling costs of renewable energy offers them an opportunity to rethink their energy strategies, develop policies and build institutions that would create jobs, bring power to those currently without and deliver more reliable electricity services, all while combating climate change.” – IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin

Renewables Readiness Assessments (RRAs) offer a holistic evaluation of conditions for renewable energy deployment in a country and outline the actions necessary to further improve these conditions. Since 2011, more than 20 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific Islands have undertaken the RRA process with IRENA to accelerate the domestic deployment of renewable technologies.

Geothermal Energy Gets Global Boost

More than 70 representatives from 22 countries and 15 multilateral organizations, gathered in Nairobi this week to push forward the global expansion of geothermal energy.

Geothermal energy is reliable, predictable and can last for decades. It has a minuscule carbon footprint, is one of the lowest-cost energy sources once start-up costs are met, and can replace fossil fuels for electricity and heating thereby reducing global emissions.

Yet, this form of renewable energy is vastly untapped across the globe.

Geothermal resources have been identified in nearly 90 countries but only 24 are producing geothermal electricity. In 2013, IRENA recorded just 12 GW of geothermal capacity worldwide but its potential capacity for energy alone is 1,700 GW, as estimated by the IEA.

To gather influence and fast-track the development of geothermal energy worldwide, global leaders are combining forces to create the Global Geothermal Alliance (GGA). Introduced at the Abu Dhabi Ascent meeting in May 2014, the GGA has been gathering support and organizing itself to formally launch at COP21 in Paris.

“We have a very important opportunity before us to prominently feature geothermal energy in a global climate change platform in Paris.” – IRENA Director General Adnan Z. Amin

Global Geothermal Alliance Meeting, Nairobi, June 2015
Global Geothermal Alliance Meeting, Nairobi, June 2015

More and more countries with large geothermal potential are working to make it an essential part of their energy mix. For example, Turkey has added 350 MW of geothermal capacity in the past six years and France is experiencing its most active period for geothermal investment in two decades.

This early growth must be encouraged and expanded for geothermal to reach its full global potential.

Currently, 18 countries and various multilateral organizations have joined the GGA initiative including, Bolivia, Burundi, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Honduras, Iceland, Nicaragua, Kenya, Philippines, the United States, Turkey, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. New Zealand and Japan have also expressed interest.

On the sidelines of the recent GGA meeting in Nairobi, attendees visited the Olkaria geothermal complex and power station, the first geothermal power plant in Africa.

Geothermal Plant
Olkaria Geothermal Complex and Power Station – Kenya

Powering Islands with Renewable Energy

This week, IRENA is participating in the second annual UN Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York City. In addition to launching the 2015 renewable energy jobs report, IRENA is also participating in various sessions on energy access, energy policy, mobilizing finance for renewables in Africa, communicating renewable energy, renewable energy for islands and others.

In a particularly enthusiastic session, IRENA’s Elizabeth Press moderated a discussion on key elements needed to scale-up renewable energy in small island developing states (SIDS).

Islands Session at SE4All

Co-organized by the UAE, the session was opened by Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of UAE to the United Nations. The UAE currently has a USD 700 million renewable energy programme with 15 SIDS, which has thus far resulted in USD 3.5 million in savings from avoided diesel imports.

“There is no better opportunity to showcase the benefits of renewable energy than with SIDS. SIDS renewable energy projects create jobs, save money, and stimulate the local economy.”

Panel participants were asked to answer the question “What are the 2 to 3 most significant obstacles in scaling up renewable energy that must be overcome?”

Darcy Boyce, Minister of Energy in the Prime Minister’s Office of Barbados, stated that the business case for renewable energy already exists on the island and that clear policy frameworks are vital to renewable energy uptake.

“We were using a lot of fuel just to heat our water, and we had all this solar out there. We decided to give a tax incentive for solar water heaters, which has resulted in 34% of our households using solar water heating. We are now following the same approach for other renewable energy technology.”

Ambassador Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations stated that policies are important and so is understanding the renewable energy potential in your area.

 “Understanding your potential is a critical way to move forward. For example, we have mountains and large hydropower potential, this is not the case with our neighbors. All the SIDS have different potentials.”

Ambassador Vince Henderson, Permanent Representative of Dominica to the United Nations, stressed the necessity of partnerships in development renewable energy resources, especially higher cost sources like Geothermal, which is rich in Dominica.

“You need to get the right partners. We were able to attract funding from the European Union, France and the French territories, which helped us de-risk our geothermal projects. We now know we can be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2019.”

Other speakers including Craig Hawke from UNDP/New Zealand, Jan Hartke of the Clinton Foundation and Mike Ekhart from GIZ, also confirmed the need for enabling policies, partnerships and appropriate financing.

Ahmed Sareer, Chair of AOSIS and Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations, further stressed the necessity for islands to lead action on emission reduction through renewable energy deployment, especially in the lead up to the global climate change negotiations in Paris this December.

IRENA’s initiative to support islands in the scale up of renewable energy, the SIDS Lighthouses Initiative, aims to support SIDS in setting up enabling policies, locating financing and establishing beneficial partnerships. It hopes to:

  • Mobilize USD 500 million
  • Deploy 100 MW of new solar PV
  • Deploy 20 MW of new wind power
  • Deploy small hydropower and geothermal energy and a number marine technology projects in progress
  • Ensure all participating SIDS develop renewable energy road maps

By speeding the uptake of renewable energy on islands around the world, the Lighthouse Initiative will enable SIDS to lead by example on climate change. Maximising the use of indigenous, clean and plentiful renewable energy requires a structured, holistic approach to ensure long-term sustainability. The SIDS Lighthouse process will also capture invaluable lessons for the rest of the world.

“SIDS can not only play their part, but can also lead in the global effort to mitigate climate change through the rapid deployment of renewables.” Elizabeth Press, Deputy Director, Innovation and Technology Centre

New Tool Sheds Light On Global Geothermal Energy Potentials

A new tool to investigate global geothermal energy potentials is now available online, just ahead of next week’s World Geothermal Congress in Melbourne, Australia. The new and freely available gravity anomaly maps, the product of collaboration between the IRENA and the European Space Agency (ESA), offer a new technique to gauge geothermal potentials around the world.

As geothermal energy exists underground, it is extremely difficult to measure. Accordingly, exploration is expensive, time consuming, and risky for investors and governments. This new technique, using Global Bouguer and Free Air Gravity Anomaly Maps, enables prospectors to gauge geothermal potentials at minimum risk and minimum cost.

 “These maps can help make a strong business case for geothermal development where none existed before. In doing so, the tool provides a short-cut for lengthy and costly explorations and unlocks the potential of geothermal energy as a reliable and clean contribution to the world’s energy mix.” – Henning Wuester, Director of IRENA’s Knowledge, Policy and Finance Centre

The maps use ESA satellite gravity measurements to look for certain characteristics unique to geothermal reservoirs, including areas with thin crusts, subduction zones, and young magmatic activity. This helps determine which areas are most likely to possess geothermal potential, narrowing the search for prospectors.

 “This is the first time that ESA’s global gravity data from the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer satellite has been used as a tool for geothermal energy site exploration. ESA will continue its collaboration with IRENA to further improve space-based gravity data as a resource for sustainable energy development. – Volker Liebig, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes

The publication of these maps is a first step towards developing a comprehensive geothermal prospecting technique. Future iterations could be produced at finer scales, integrating the satellite data locally with terrestrial data to further improve the quality of results.

The latest geothermal maps are a part of the Global Atlas portal, the most comprehensive repository of global renewable energy resource potential maps. The Atlas combines 1,000 maps from 67 governments and 50 data centres to provide access to the necessary datasets, expertise and financial support to help countries evaluate their national renewable energy potentials. Currently, 67 countries and more than 50 institutes and partners contribute to the initiative.

 Visit the Global Atlas geothermal map: http://irena.masdar.ac.ae/?map=1046

For more information on Global Gravity Maps: http://www.lithoflex.org/IRENA/