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Positioning Geothermal – Determining key aspects

Positioning Geothermal – Determining key aspects Positioning Geothermal - key aspects
Alexander Richter 5 Jul 2021

Roundtable highlights key aspects needed in positioning of geothermal energy in the wider energy discussion.

October 2021

November 2021

Last month, we released an article sharing our thoughts on unifying the geothermal energy industry’s messaging following an initial roundtable meeting of industry representatives. The online roundtable event was organized by Baseload Capital and led by Kristina Hagström Ilievska, with a group of 40+ industry representatives from various angles of the sector participating.

The idea with the roundtable was to open a discussion on how can we unify in positioning geothermal energy as part of answering the world‘s climate problems. We had promised to follow this initial piece with further details on our discussions, such as key themes determined by participants, concrete proposals and next steps as part of a more inclusive discussion with a wider group from the industry and beyond, so here we go.

Before though going into details, it is worth mentioning that the interest we have seen following the article has been overwhelming. A lot of people were in touch both directly and indirectly through various channels, sharing their thoughts and ideas, raised critical points for needed discussions and overall seem to have received our initiative as a positive and necessary step.

With the great diversity of our industry, we sure understand the need to reflect the wide variety of experience, background, emphasis, region, and segments of our industry being represented. How we will exactly take this forward is still a key element of ongoing debate. We will though share details in due time after the European summer break.

To lead the further discussions and develop some concrete steps forward in “Positioning Geothermal”, here are some of the key aspects we discussed.

The following summary cannot be fully complete, yet tries to cover the main aspects discussed. To emphasize, the below is neither complete nor can it be seen as final framework for discussion, yet hopefully opens the debate for more to come.

General Positioning

The aspect of how we position geothermal as part of the ongoing energy transition, create awareness and public acceptance are elements that were discussed.

There has been general consensus in geothermal energy having an important role to play as part of the deploying renewable energy worldwide and that we as an industry need to better highlight the differentiating factors, such as the externalities of different technologies (attributes). The “emotional” connection of what geothermal has to offer was described and us having to become better in selling the attributes of geothermal like “Apple” does for its products and the consumer experience.

Radium Hot Springs, BC, Canada (source: flickr/ Pat (Cletch) Williams, creative commons)

Geothermal as source of energy, offers unique and additional attributes and thereby should be valued differently as part of the renewable energy, and we should consider selling it as “Ferrari of renewables”. That exact point was seen a bit critical by some after our first article, but I think created a good debate wherever it might lead in the end.

Climate change is a common enemy and we as an industry need to highlight the role of geothermal in this context, as well as the individual opportunities and solutions offered by the category “geothermal energy”.

At the same time, and this was emphasized by many participants, we very much need to seek partnerships with other renewable energy technologies.

Valuation and attributes offered by geothermal

What are the main values and attributes that make geothermal a valid element of the global energy transition? Key aspects discussed in this context included: the need for a general differentiation of geothermal from other energy options in the renewable energy context, the need to determine the key attributes (differentiating attributes) and put a value on those, continue pushing the narrative of the value of baseload, fuel cost and emissions.

Costs/ Business/ Financials

A key aspect in every energy generation context is the cost, and drilling cost was seen as a determining factor, as well as the need to overall decrease the cost for geothermal project development. Other things discussed included: scale and scaleability – how to reach scale in projects and energy generation, the lack of financial support and incentives, the element of risk – both perceived and real risk, the still cumbersome permitting in many jurisdictions around  the world.

Discussions also showed that we seemingly talk too little about the success stories and there are a ton. See only the last few week’s positive notes from geothermal lithium, the first geothermal steam produced in the UK and so more. So we need to highlight and become more vocal about the successes of our sector, and point to the fact there is indeed a business opportunity in geothermal

Technology

The geothermal sector needs further technological development and particularly in the last few years we have seen a large number of new entrants into the sector with a technology focus.

At the same time though, we need to demonstrate commercial technologies allowing for a scalability of our sector. We need implementation and innovation with new technologies that help us increase competitiveness. In addition, we as a sector need to see opportunities in combining technologies. Good examples are the use of solar and other hybrid solutions.

Awareness building/ public acceptance

In our discussions we talked about advocacy, education, stakeholder engagements, public awareness campaigns and more.

Informing politicians and stakeholders was seen as key element of advocacy both locally and globally, aggressive and ambitious lobbying, creating awareness for required policies and this all under a unified message.

For wider awareness, the group further discussed the need to include geothermal into the curriculum, while at the same time attract talent and stakeholders to the geothermal “cause”.

In the debate about awareness, the value chain of geothermal energy development and utilization came up and the need for us as a sector better explain the different aspects of the value chain. We need to do better value proposition promotion for the different players – geothermal and the wider geo-energy space and the different interests aspects (service sales, product sales, operations/ utility … also think finance aspects).

While mentioned above already, in the context of awareness, we need to really deliver projects and talk about the wins, the success stories.

Building awareness would not be complete with discussions about public awareness campaigns. As ideas mentioned were engagement with media, the creation of wider content, both video and news, while also understand the need of engagement via different platforms, such as TikTok video content, etc.

Another important aspect discussed was the need that we need to be moving beyond the “hot” regions, and highlight the geothermal for the 195+ countries of this world.

All of the above is only a fraction of all the different points and aspects raised in the roundtable discussion, but should provide a good initial list of things for a wider discussion.

It though also showed that as an industry we need good representation and wider partnerships, we need to find the champions and future champions and engage with them on full throttle.

Unifying the voice of the industry is important and if this is not possible structurally or organizationally then at least let us try to find a  unified voice in the messaging.

In our post last month, we announced plans for an open discussions with a planned task force in a new roundtable discussion at the World Geothermal Congress 2020+1 in Reykjavik, Iceland in October 2021.

As we have been saying we are not the once who will solve it. Instead we have to do this together by building a community with trust and generous sharing. We will all succeed if the industry succeeds. With that said we need help to get a diverse group together that will make sure to guide the industry forward backed up by thousands of others. Do you know the right person who should be in this group representing your segment or company. In that case we would like to come in contact with tat person. That is why we are rolling out a global nomination process where we need your help.

Please make sure to nominate your candidate so we can collect the brightest minds at the World Geothermal Congress 2020+1 in Iceland. Everyone will take parts of dialogue but some of us will lead the way in this next phase. Is that person you or maybe someone you trust that can make a difference.

Link: https://info.baseloadcap.com/nomination

Alexander Richter, Founder & Editor, ThinkGeoEnergy

Note: We replaced the link for the registration of nominations as we had set up a wrong link. We apologise.