Impressions of the GeoPower Conference Latin America

Impressions of the GeoPower Conference Latin America San Gregorio, Southern Chile (source: flickr/ Carlos_Y., creative commons)
Francisco Rojas 21 Nov 2013

There are two underlying themes at the conference, the barriers to geothermal development in Chile and the impact of Communities and how to address them.

In his blog, Denée Reaves explains the highlights of the GeoPower Conference Latin America, held in Santiago de Chile, Chile last week.

According to Mr. Reaves, there are two underlying themes that seem to come up in every discussion during the conferences; the first being the cumbersome barriers that are present in the development phase of geothermal projects in Chile, and the second, the role of communities and how involved they are in energy projects in the country.

Regarding the current barriers to development, one of the most clear issues surround the incredible potential that Chile has to expand its geothermal prowess and how little has been achieved to date. Possible solutions to this matter are:

  1. Attracting more investment but focused on development – The great problem with geothermal energy generation is not its cost, but the uncertainty and the cost of exploration. He states that “One of the reasons initial costs are so steep for geothermal development is that all drilling and construction equipment must be imported from other countries as there is no base of such equipment or technical knowledge right now in Chile. Investors at the conference went into detail about why they need the high risk of geothermal development to be mitigated before they can feel comfortable committing to investing.” By bringing in more investors, the risk can be spread and its impact lessened.
  2. Issues with the ambiguous regulatory framework: There is a persistent lack of clarity in with the current laws, that slows down the development of projects unnecessarily. Clarification and more simplified regulation can greatly help in this area.
  3. Lack of a governmental approach: Without help from and support from the Chilean Government, investors loose faith in current and future projects. By creating a straightforward plan, more investment can be attracted.

The second area, the role of communities in projects has a very distinctive effect. The companies that successfully operate in the country have found ways to operate with the communities and with their support. Mr. Reaves explains that “Their methods didn’t include throwing money at communities, but working with the communities to develop knowledge of the projects so that they can benefit from and work with the companies. Two of the presenters mentioned how they hire local university students as interns so that they can learn geothermal development first hand. Others, such as Catherine Hickson from Alterra Power, spoke about empowering the women in particular in these communities. Throughout her experience, Hickson has found that educating the women means that one is also educating the community, as women are specifically likely and able to spread their new-found knowledge throughout the town.”

Source: Denée Reaves’s Blog via Swithchboard Website