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The International Geothermal Association (IGA) and my view for its future

IGA new and old board, Addis Ababa, November 2016 (source: Ronnie Penarroyo)
Alexander Richter 23 Jan 2017

Recently I was elected President of the International Geothermal Association in addition to my activities at ThinkGeoEnergy and Green Energy Geothermal. Adding an additional role, it also is a great honour working with the main body representing the different facets of the global geothermal energy industry.

I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the geothermal energy industry for now more than 10 years, first in my role for Icelandic bank Glitnir/ Islandsbanki and its geothermal energy team and then through my various other roles. In 2008, I founded ThinkGeoEnergy as a media platform to support the sector in promoting itself and provide news about what is happening in the geothermal energy industry world wide. In 2011, I joined the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) as its Executive Director and have been on the Board of the association since. In 2012, I joined Green Energy Geothermal as Marketing Director. All the time I have been an outspoken advocate for geothermal, but also shared my belief that we as an industry need to strengthen our efforts in promoting ourselves to the outside world.

In 2013, I was elected onto the board of the International Geothermal Association (IGA) and have been active on a variety of activities within the board. With the new board term that started on November 1, 2016, I have been elected to represent IGA as its President for the term of 2016-2019. The Board of IGA is elected every three years for a three years-term among its members, while the President is then elected by the incoming board members. The activities of the board and its members is purely voluntary and involve a strong personal and unpaid commitment by the individuals accepting that role.

In the latest newsletter (pdf) by the International Geothermal Association (IGA), I wrote an introduction piece that I wanted to share here with you parts of the text I shared with the membership of IGA. The reason is mostly that I want to share with you what we are doing at IGA and how we work on representing the global geothermal energy industry. In the coming weeks, I further hope to share with you some thoughts on how you could help us promote geothermal energy and the opportunities it provides. But here parts of my letter to the members of IGA.

 

I am very honoured to have been elected President of IGA and I am grateful for the trust given to me to fill this position over the next three years. I will follow in the position of President distinguished predecessors, like Juliet Newson (formerly with Contact Energy, New Zealand, and now at the Iceland School of Energy), Roland Horne (Stanford University), Ladislaus Rybach (ETH Zuerich) and many more.

Last year, the IGA held the World Geothermal Congress in Melbourne, Australia, and I had the chance to see New Zealand. I would like to thank the organizers and all involved in making this event a successful event for the industry, despite the challenges endured. The next World Geothermal Congress will be held in 2020 in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The 2016-2019 term of the board falls in between two World Congresses and provides a good opportunity to reflect on our work as an association, our cooperation with national associations and an evaluation of our strategy for the next challenging coming years. The geothermal sector and its national and international associations, underfunded as they are, play an important role for the sector, promoting, informing, but also gathering support to help with the development of geothermal projects worldwide: for power generation, direct use and combined heat and power plants. But they also need the support of the sector and its representatives.

During the past board term of the IGA, I was heavily involved in preparing and working on a future strategy for IGA and worked with the Secretariat and other board members on a new approach to branding of the association. This work continues and I hope we can make a big push forward involving also our membership. In all the activities, I worked closely with and have supported the Secretariat throughout these activities. IGA can build on the fantastic support by the host of the IGA Secretariat in Bochum, Germany.

Compared to other renewable energy technologies, we are though not as visible and are often not taken that seriously. Therefore, I believe that we need to strengthen efforts in the promotion, development and representation of geothermal energy, this not only to the general public but also national and multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, IRENA and related.

Representing industry interests and those of our member associations is only possible by strengthening our activities and involvement with those entities and organizations. This involves research activities, project development, financing and risk mitigation tools and much more. The pioneering research projects to tame supercritical geothermal resources such as IDDP, Japan beyond the Brittle Project, and others already involves industry, government and research institutions to share costs and risk for power production from supercritical geothermal reservoirs. They represent the huge potential of geothermal and open the way to a stronger share of geothermal among the other renewable energy sources.

At the same time we need to put a focus on realistic targets. It is important that we find ways to engage industry more strongly into our activities and thereby also strengthen the fantastic research efforts of the industry on an academic and industry level. This also includes efforts on entrepreneurship and technological development and I see IGA in a possible facilitating role going forward. With our strategy discussions in the board, we have laid a good foundation for preparing IGA for the future.

For IGA it is important to strengthen our efforts in supporting developing countries that want to develop their geothermal resources. We can do so through interaction with international organizations and agencies such as the Global Geothermal Alliance, IRENA, Africa Renewable Energy Initiative and various other initiatives.

Engaging with the national geothermal associations, I hope to be able to meet with many of them during the term of 2016-2019, but also meet with larger players in the industry to see what IGA could do for the industry while engaging industry more in the support of the work of IGA.

Another thing I really want to emphasize is how we can strengthen the role of women in the geothermal energy sector and thereby fully support the great work of all the WINGs (Women in Geothermal). I hope to be working closely together with all the WINGs and WINGmen over the coming years, not only on the board of IGA, but also via ThinkGeoEnergy.

I plan to report regularly on IGA and its board on a personal note via my personal blog, but also via ThinkGeoEnergy.com. I am the Founder & Editor of ThinkGeoEnergy, and have been operating this news platform for the geothermal energy sector since 2008.

We are now also running a Spanish version at PiensaGeotermia.com and soon a Turkish version at JeotermalHaberler.com. With all the planned activities and efforts, these will be some busy three years and if you want to help out with our activities on IGA and spread the word about geothermal energy, please be in touch. So for questions, comments, thoughts and more, email me at: iga@thinkgeoenergy.com

Alexander Richter, President, International Geothermal Association & Principal, ThinkGeoEnergy