A unique event brings geothermal operators from opposite corners of the globe together in Brussels

Policy makers, government representatives and industry representatives from the European Union, Iceland and Japan agreed that geothermal energy, a widely available resource which is clean, stable and sustainable, will become increasingly important as an alternative to traditional energy resources across the globe. The representatives gathered in Brussels yeserday (March 8th) to participate in the “Workshop on cooperation in geothermal issues”, organised by the European Geothermal Energy Council, the Icelandic Mission to the European Union and the EU-Japan Centre and held in the European Economic and Social Committee. All speakers expressed their belief in the need for all stakeholders to become more aware of the resources available and of their possible applications.

Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source from the earth, delivering heat and power 24 hours a day, all through the year, and is widely available.

This unique workshop looked at how to exploit the huge global potential of geothermal through increased cooperation in R&D, technology and knowledge transfers between the EU, Iceland and Japan.

The first geothermal power plants were inaugurated in 1904 in Europe, which is now leading in deployment of EGS technologies. Representing the European Union at the event were Agustin Escardino Malva, Deputy Head of Unit, DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission and Mr. Carlo Minini , Turboden. The EU realises the importance of geothermal and through the new funding programme for research and development “Horizon 2020”, is looking to increase the budget for geothermal research and cooperation. Mr. Gunter Siddiqi, Head of Geothermal Research at the Swiss Federal Office of Energy also addressed the workshop.

Due to its location, Iceland has very favourable conditions for geothermal development. Mr. Jonas Ketilsson from the National Energy Authority in Iceland discussed geothermal energy policy from an Icelandic perspective, informing the workshop that geothermal resources are utilized both for electricity generation and direct heat application in Iceland and 66% of the nations’ primary energy supply comes from geothermal energy. Iceland has been transferring its know-how by hosting the UN Geothermal Training Programme since 1979. Runólfur Maack from Mannvit Engineering presented successful case studies on geothermal in Iceland and abroad, in particular, Hungary.

Japan also has geothermal plants in operation. It is important to note that in the area affected by the earthquake in March 2011, all geothermal power plants are functioning normally, generating the same levels of power as before the earthquake. Following the earthquake, Japan is now changing its stance on energy policy, with an even stronger focus on geothermal. Mr. Nobuhiko Hara of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries gave an interesting presentation on the implementation of geothermal energy in Japan while Ms. Kuniko Urashima, a senior research fellow from the National Institute for Science and Technology Policy at MEXT shared her view on the change in focus in Japan from nuclear to geothermal energy. 

The workshop was moderated by Professor Gerd Wolf, Vice – President of the Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and Information Society at the EESC, Andri Luthersson, Counsellor at the Icelandic Mission to the European Union, Mr. Burkhard Sanner, the President of EGEC and concluding remarks were given by Mr. Stéphane Buffetaut, President of the Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and Information Society at the European Economic and Social Committee.

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