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Branding Geothermal – A Presentation on the Brand of Geothermal Energy

Presentation at the CHARGE Energy Branding Conference (source: Rana Brightman)
Alexander Richter 11 Oct 2017

This my presentation on "Branding Geothermal" given at the CHARGE Energy Branding conference in Reykjavik/ Iceland highlighting what geothermal energy has to offer and what challenges we face in branding this type of energy.

Last year, I attended for the first time the CHARGE – Energy Branding Conference in Iceland. The event was an eye opener with regards to the need of the geothermal sector to clearly needing to up its game in the promotion and positioning of its “Brand”.

As a result, I have discussed with many people in the industry on how we can sharpen the profile of geothermal energy. This resulted in a paper that my colleague Patrick Hanson of GeoEnergy Marketing and myself handed in for the GRC Annual Meeting 2017 in Salt Lake City. In the accompanying presentation, we highlighted the crucial role of marketing and communication in companies, the need to promote geothermal as such beside the products or services of a company and a better cooperation of everyone in the sector.

So when I was invited this year to speak on “Branding Geothermal” at the CHARGE conference, I was very honoured to do so. To promote geothermal energy in front of a crowd of marketing and branding specialists from all over Europe and North America was an exciting opportunity to highlight what geothermal energy has to offer and what challenges we face in branding this type of energy.

You can check out the presentation I gave here below, but as it is very much image-driven, I thought it would be helpful to provide the points I made as well. You can find the write up of my speech below the slides.

Here a summary of the presentation and background details.

Opening the presentation, I spoke about my background and the challenges I faced when I joined the sector in 2006. Back then there was no real media coverage of the sector, nor any international efforts to promote geothermal energy as a media offering. So I talked about how I founded ThinkGeoEnergy as a media platform for the global geothermal energy sector, which has been aimed to give it a platform to promote itself and highlight global development activities.

I then jumped into the big elephant in the room of what geothermal energy actually is. In a book by Al Gore, he described geothermal energy as “potentially the largest – and presently most misunderstood – source of energy”, which essentially sums up the challenges we face as a sector. In order to promote ourselves we always have to explain what geothermal energy is, what it has to offer and how we can make it work.

I then highlighted some of the facts why it is so difficult for us to talk about geothermal as we face certain presumptions on the sector, such as you need volcanoes for any geothermal development, that is essentially “just like” the oil and gas sector and that geothermal development is essentially the same as fracking.

Referring to another presentation in the conference, which highlighted the fact that often geothermal is seen as synonymous with Iceland, I showed a newspaper clipping from Turkey. In this article, the fact is celebrated that Turkey reached the 1 GW Geothermal Country Club … using actually a picture from the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant in Iceland. With so many beautiful geothermal plants in Turkey, this is actually sad but not the first time that pictures from Icelandic geothermal plants are used as a feature to promote geothermal. While nice and positive, they often give the impression that geothermal energy is only “possible” in Iceland, or at least with similar “volcanic” features.

Another thing I referred to, here with a picture of the Champagne Pool in New Zealand, that we often use imagery of beautiful touristy spots, where we – hopefully – never develop geothermal projects.

Essentially the point I made was that geothermal energy is possible beyond Iceland and beautiful geothermal spots. This is why I showed then a heat map of the United States that shows temperatures at depths of 7.5 km highlighting the fact that geothermal energy can be found everywhere, and it is only a matter of effort made and cost to explore and utilise it if required.

I then jumped into the different applications for geothermal energy utilisation, starting with power generation.

Then I showed a picture of Beijing with and without smog, discussing the great efforts made by China to make its cities smog-free through geothermal heating. This was to highlight the opportunities geothermal energy provides in providing a clean energy source for heating helping to replace fossil-fuelled heating systems around the world, mentioning also the efforts made by Poland in that regard.

Street-heating in Iceland was then another slide showcasing another option of heating.

Fish farming is another use for geothermal water and here I used a picture of a fish farming operation in the Salton Sea in California.
Then, I talked about the Vulcanol/ Methanol production from CO2 of a geothermal plant in Iceland.

Bathing and spas are another form of geothermal energy utilisation that is often under estimated and here I wanted not to show yet another Blue Lagoon picture and chose instead a picture of the bathing monkeys in Jigokudani Park in Japan.

Another often discussed opportunity for geothermal is deriving valuable minerals from geothermal brine, either alone or in conjunction from geothermal operations. Here I discussed the extraction of Lithium from brine in the Salton Sea that could feed into the large battery production efforts by Tesla in Nevada and elsewhere.

Greenhouses are yet another fantastic example how geothermal energy can be used, both for electricity and heating. The picture here is from the Oserian greenhouse operations at Olkaria in Kenya.

I then highlighted our efforts at the International Geothermal Association to rebrand ourselves to help better promote our activities in pushing for geothermal development worldwide.

Ending the presentation, I branded Geothermal as the “Energy Beyond Electricity” to emphasize the many opportunities provided by geothermal energy in the overall energy context. This includes heating, cooling and electricity generation, making geothermal energy a rather unique offering within the renewable energy context.