The geothermal energy industry is heating up third world nations, and showing serious signs of growth and expansion. The world is expected to generate 12,000 MWs of geothermal electricity by the end of this year. Countries in Africa and Latin America are helping to fuel this evolution into geothermal power.
To help put this into perspective: 415 MW went online in 2012, while more than 700 MW have been commissioned in 2013.
These numbers equal out to a 4 percent growth rate each year, but according to Ben Matek (Writer for Geothermal Energy Association (GEA)), annual numbers aren’t always the best way to understand geothermal energy progress.
According to Matek:
“Unlike other renewables, [geothermal] projects tend to be larger endeavors and can take up to a year to construct...it’s more of a waiting game for the projects to become operational.”
What is most noteworthy, according to Matek, is where companies are looking for new projects. For example, in 2011 and 2012, most U.S. companies were focused on the domestic market. But now, many have shifted their sights on global markets.
Matek went on to say:
“It seems the geothermal market is becoming much more competitive, with companies competing in the global market for projects.”
The amount of global projects being created reinforces this trend.
According to Karl Gawell, executive director of the GEA:
“What the report is actually showing is that if you look back three years ago when we did our very first international report, we were able to identify about 70 countries interested in geothermal, but it was difficult to see more than about a dozen of them moving forward with projects. Today we are seeing many more of those countries move forward with multiple projects.”
According to Gawell, many of these countries are awakening to the potential of geothermal energy and taking advantage of it for two primary reasons:
Economics – Third world nations need alternative energies to grow.
Climate Initiatives – These “third worlders” are creating climate laws that rival our own!
The Obama Administration’s Power Africa program and GEA’s own East African Geothermal Partnership (EAGP), along with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are helping to increase the exchange of business from U.S. companies to Africa.
According to Gawell:
“[EAGP has] been holding training seminars to bring U.S. experts over to work with these countries – it’s another program where we’ll learn what works and how to move forward. We’ve had a strong showing of companies interested in those markets and people are doing business there.”
And they aren’t kidding! Already 100 companies have arrived in Kenya to bid on three geothermal Energy projects.
According to Matek:
“Now we see many countries whose projects were just ideas on paper actually tendering property for development and initial stages of exploration underway. Tangible research, events, and publications are coming out of these countries that 3-5 years ago were just ideas. It’s exciting to look back and see the forward progress.”