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Geothermal in the Andes, an initiative by IRENA

Drilling rig at Tolhuaca, Chile (source: GeoGlobal)
Alexander Richter 30 Sep 2015

IRENA's Geothermal in the Andes initiative aims to kick start geothermal development in the Andean region in South America, among others with workshops to help attract financing.

In an interesting write up IRENA provides some background details on its geothermal activities in South America.

While there is an enormous geothermal potential in the Andean region, this potential remains today mainly untouched.

Today, there are no geothermal power plants are operating in the region. 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.

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.

“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
Source: IRENA