Positioning geothermal – time to unify our industry’s messaging

Alexander Richter 4 Jun 2021

Roundtable opens discussion on how can we unify in positioning of geothermal energy as part of answering the world‘s climate problems.

The geothermal energy sector has been struggling to get its spotlight in the energy discussions and the drive towards the deployment and development of renewable energy in the past 20 years. While it has gradually grown and has seen increased interest in the last year or two, it clearly has not seen the attention – that we all believe – it deserves.

The challenge though is not only the lack of attention, but also the struggle of our industry to find a unified message and successfully sell the clear value proposition of geothermal energy in the context of the global energy transition. The industry‘s national and international associations, interest groups, companies and scientific bodies have been all working on different angles of promoting what geothermal energy has to offer. Yet the unified message the concerted efforts in pushing geothermal has so far not been achieved.

Surely there have been heavy discussions behind the scenes and many of us in the industry have tried to rally forces together in the past, but so far we have not been able to join forces across the different segments of our industry to work on a combined message. But the idea to hold a larger discussion on this topic came after an inspirational online seminar by Baseload Capital on key trends in geothermal which had several speakers mention the need to better position and sell the brand geothermal by unifying our voice and message in promoting it. Together with Kristina Hagström Ilievska, CMO of Baseload Capital, we then started discussing how we could engage the sector.

As you can imagine this is a huge and wide topic to discuss, and in discussing the development of a unified messaging on geothermal and the idea of a task force, we ended up with some rather diverse points of view. Just defining what the elements of our industry are that we need to tackle and who should represent those became hotly debated topics.

In the end we decided to put together a  roundtable online event organized by Baseload Capital and led by Kristina Hagström Ilievska, with a group of 40+ industry representatives from various angles of the sector. The target was to discuss what can help us to unite the geothermal energy industry in the drive to make geothermal mainstream.

We had a great group of people with Marit Brommer of the International Geothermal Association, Taylor Mattie of Baker Hughes, Patrick Hanson of Geo Energy Marketing/ JRG Energy, Paul Thomsen of Ormat Technologies, Carlos Araque of Quaise Energy, Tim Latimer of Fervo Energy, John Redfern of Eavor Technologies, Alexander Hellling of Baseload Capital, Graeme Edge of Energy Disrupters, Kristina Hagström Ilievska of Baseload Capital, and myself.

The full event then featured a wider group of companies and individuals. The individuals that were part of the discussions represented drilling, development, power plants, technology, investment, marketing and the industry representation. We though admit it is a challenge to get the much needed diversity, be it in power vs heat vs geo energy, regional, gender, industry segments etc. and we need to find a better way to guarantee a wider diversity.

With such a large topic, we tried to narrow things down to two key questions to be put forward for discussion at the roundtable event, which was held in late April 2021.

  1. If geothermal power is the answer to the world’s climate problems, why is it not the most prioritized form of renewable energy?
  2. What would be your top three actions to solve these issues?

It became quite obvious that with the companies represented, discussions quickly seem to mainly discuss the electricity generation part of geothermal energy, which is obviously only one aspect and likely a narrow fraction of what geothermal energy can deliver for the energy of the future.

It was very obvious that it was nearly impossible that these two questions could be answered in the time frame we had set ourselves, yet it forced a to-the-point discussion in several break out rooms. The discussions and points raised clearly showed how different we all see the industry based on what element of the sector we represent, but also how we all agree in the fact that the current value put on geothermal is far from the real value it provides in the context of the global energy transition.

In the end the discussions centered around why geothermal is not being prioritized and what could be key actions for more traction in getting attention for geothermal and what we could do about it.

Key elements that were put forward by the group included the need to attract talent to the sector, increase promotion and lobbying, better position the value proposition within the different value chain elements, selling scale, and the overall positioning of geothermal energy in the context of its contribution to the global energy transition.

As you can imagine this can only scratch the surface of all the fantastic points and discussions we had.

In our next article we will be looking into finding concrete steps forward, go into details of these points and ideas on how we can tackle these, including positioning of geothermal in the context of if and how geothermal could be positioned as a prime product (think of making geothermal the „Ferrari“ of the renewable energy space), how we can sell the investment aspects, technologies, scale etc.

We will then host an open discussion with a planned task force in a new roundtable discussion at the World Geothermal Congress 2020+1 in Reykjavik, Iceland in October 2021. A call for nominations for the task force will come.

Alexander Richter, Founder & Editor, ThinkGeoEnergy