International Geothermal Industry Developing Strong Partnerships, Robust Market

This year’s Geothermal Energy Association (GEA)’s Geothermal Energy Expo and Geothermal Resources Council’s Annual Meeting incorporated a wide range of meetings on international development. U.S. interest in exporting geothermal goods and services is ever-increasingly met with outside interest in U.S. knowledge and materials, particularly from developing countries.

At the Expo, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were there supporting delegations from Turkey and East Africa, respectively. While booths were getting set up, companies and individuals interested or involved in international geothermal development filled a nearby meeting room to talk about details and strategy moving forward for areas of international growth.

USAID and GEA launched the U.S. East Africa Geothermal Partnership (EAGP) last year to support major geothermal potential and growth in East Africa, and the group sponsored the delegation of 9 Africans attending these events. At the meeting, EAGP discussed its activities since its inception, including participation in the November 2012 ARGeo C-4 conference in Nairobi, several training modules in Kenya, and its budding presence in the region — in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Next year it intends to sponsor both an African delegation to the GEA’s April 2014 international event in Washington DC as well as U.S. industry reps wishing to attend the next ARGeo conference, which is slated for Nairobi in November 2014. 

The EAGP discussion showed the organization is learning from its fledgling activities as it plans for a long-term U.S. presence in Africa. The program is invigorated by administrative support through President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, which emphasizes interagency coordination, and it defines its best options for success by tapping industry input.

At the meeting, U.S. industry discussed its needs in Africa such as increased clarity and additional resource data in future open bids. The group intends to focus on these points as some of its key priorities, noted John Hammond, Acting EAGP Director and Senior Director of the U.S. Energy Association. Participants added that such improvements in the language of RFPs would likely lead to greater response from developers and help attract financiers. As the group works on existing issues, it also seeks experience from law firms, environmental consultants, and other experts. Large-scale power plants such as Kenya’s Menengai and Olkaria facilities could be joined by direct-use applications, a potential fit for African agricultural industries, in the EAGP objective spectrum.

Clearly, East Africa’s interest in continuing and expanding U.S. partnership runs deep. This was also reflected in GEA’s September international report, which showed Kenya as one of the fastest growing geothermal markets in the world.

International visitors took the opportunity to introduce their contributions and comment on the global industry as a whole. At an event where some U.S. companies have worked to create decades-long bonds, presenters commented on the need for that type of long-term partnership between geothermal markets around the world. Installed geothermal capacity recently surpassed 12,000 MW globally, and such partnerships could help to ensure that the ~27 GW now actively being pursued will lead to power plant generation over the next decade.

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Leslie is located in Washington DC at the Office of the Geothermal Energy Association and serves on the Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Expo committee.

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