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Geothermal – a transformational energy for sustainability

Berlin geothermal plant, El Salvador (source: video screenshot)
Alexander Richter 11 Nov 2019

In this opinion piece, Tanja Faller, Regional Director for Energy for German development agency GIZ in El Salvador, describes how geothermal energy increasingly has found its way into energy discussions and funding rounds at international development banks and multilaterals.

In this guest post, Tanja Faller, Regional Director Energy in El Salvador for German international development agency GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH) describes how geothermal energy is a transformational tool in the sustainability context.

Geothermal is a unique energy resource – and one that has been increasingly gaining its space in the development and donor communities. Not only the multilateral development banks have in the last 10 years taken more and more interest in geothermal development around the globe. Capacity building measures  – financed by development ministries such  as the German BMZ, and implemented by specialized capacity building actors, such as the GIZ are on the rise, allowing for transformational impact

What makes geothermal unique is that solves most of the changes large generation plants face nowadays: infrastructure: Geothermal  is probably the only economically viable energy that is climate friendly, climate resilient and fosters local development in the immediate vicinity of the plants.

Geothermal energy generation does not cause any additional CO2 emissions: it is renewable in nature, allowing to contribute its share to stopping global warming. Unlike solar or wind, it is a based load energy, providing energy 24/7, rain or shine and 365 days a year, fostering grid stability and allowing for energy planning without any storage needs.

At the same time, Geothermal energy is climate resilient:  It produces energy independent of a rainy season, storms or heat periods: When in San Lucia the hurricane blew away the newly installed solar panels, the geothermal power plant continued its operation, through the winds and waves, providing the much – needed energy for reconstruction of the island after the hurricane.

Finally, geothermal has a unique potential to foster local development in its vicinity, and thus, to share the economic benefits it provides with the local, often rural and marginalized populations. Direct energy use   – i.e. waste heat in a cascade system –   i.e. agriculture drying facilities (nuts, coffee, fruits etc.)  allows the local population to have employment even after construction has finished on the ground, while at the same time allowing the industry to expand agro-industry production locally. This allows to share the economic benefits of the geothermal sources that the unique assets.

Geothermal development is transformational as it allows an eye to eye collaboration and cooperation. Countries around the pacific ring of fire countries such as the central American countries, Kenya Asian countries such as Indonesia have already gained significant experience in using its unique geothermal resources. Geothermal is their unique asset, in an economic sense a “comparative advantage”.  Therefore, the international cooperation ought to take a stand in not “fixing” a perceived need, but rather – on an eye-to eye basis – jointly shaping opportunities for a sustainable green growth pathway.

We thank Tanja Faller for her article.