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Staying real – or how we should sell geothermal energy

Abandoned well on Biliran Island, Philippines (source: ThinkGeoEnergy)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 17 Feb 2018

How can we be realistic in our efforts to promote geothermal energy - either in the context of a certain project or in the overall promise of geothermal energy utilisation - staying real and realistic is important.

Back in 2014, I wrote an article on “Geothermal success stories and their impact on the industry“, in the article I raised the point on expectations in the geothermal development context and the management thereof.

This followed several discussions in the industry and the critical question if the industry should be bold in coming up with numbers (aka overpromise), like the wind industry has done for years, or should it be more humble and be rather careful in presenting numbers?

In the lobbying context this is a catch 22, if you overpromise and underdeliver, you are ruining your reputation. If you underpromise and overdeliver, you might not get the necessary support to really make things moving. So this is a tricky thing.

The geothermal energy industry is – in more than one sense – in a rather tricky situation. If we don’t come up with promising projections on resources and project size, we will not be taken serious. If we do promise the world, but fail to deliver, we will not get the support going forward.

But stories come up again and again on unrealistic numbers being presented that are maybe not false, but essentially unrealistic in the context they are presented.

There is a certain responsibility of us as an industry to be realistic in our announcements, both in our capabilities (last but least not financial), but particularly in promising capacity numbers.

For “developers” or interested “investors” to talk about large MW potential numbers for areas with an electricity demand of a margin thereof is certainly difficult.

We are selling dreams, particularly in the context of helping small nations to become independent from expensive diesel power generation, but have to be realistic in our projection of what geothermal can offer.

So lets be optimistic in our salesmanship but at the same time realistic in our promise of what geothermal energy projects can offer both in the context of specific regions, islands and states, or in the global energy context. At the end of the day, only a successful project proves what we can do, and not the mere promise thereof.