Renewable Power Generation - 2012 figures

edited by Gail Rajgor

Special report. Part seven: Average year of growth for geothermal but vast potential...

About the article: This special Renewable Energy Focus power generation focus previews REMIPEG's latest update, carried out in the first four months of 2013 by Lahmeyer International, and presents an overview for each renewable power sector, based on scenarios up to the end of 2012.

This article is taken from the July/August 2013 issue of Renewable Energy Focus (REFocus) magazine. For a free subscription, click here.

Part one - Summary

Part two - China continued its dominance of the global hydropower market

Part three - New markets for solar thermal power gain some momentum

Part four - Support grows for Ocean Energy

Part five - Rush for PTC saw the US edge China out of wind market lead in 2012

Part six - US still dominated the electricity from biomass world market in 2012

Part seven - Geothermal 2012

THE GLOBAL geothermal energy market continued growing in 2012; however the newly installed capacity of 353MW represents average growth in respect to the last six years (547MW, 317MW, 338MW, 392MW and 225MW; 2011-2007 respectively). The US contributed 147MW of newly installed capacity for the year, and another 207MW is a result of statistical revision done by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). Hence, the US has around 3386MW of installed geothermal plant and remains the largest national market.

Nicaragua (36MW) and Mexico (25MW) also completed expansions of existing geothermal power plants, while Indonesia completed construction and expansion respectively of three plants with a combined capacity of 135MW. Kenya brought a 5MW installation online, while in Germany a binary cycle plant started production with a capacity of 4.8MW. Thus, in 2012 cumulative geothermal capacity globally increased to around 11.57GW.

Summary of the global geothermal market, region by region, end of 2012
  Cumulated installed capacity 2012 (GW) Installed capacity 2012 (MW) Estimated electricity generation 2012 (TWh/year)
Europe 1.69 5 11.4
North America 4.92 208 28.4
South America 0 0 0
Asia 3.92 135 26.2
Oceania 0.82 0 4.6
Africa 0.22 5 1.5
World total 11.57
Largest National Market USA 3.39 USA 147  USA 18

Overall, the geothermal industry is currently developing 175 geothermal projects with a total potential capacity of 2.5–2.6GW, around 800MW of which is at an advanced stage. The United States is leading this. While its 3386MW across eight states represents 28.6 % of worldwide geothermal capacity, the GEA says significant growth is expected in 2013 and subsequent years. In 2013 up to 14 plants could begin operation, another nine plants in 2014 and 10 more in 2015.

In terms of Central America and the Caribbean, El Salvador (204MW), Costa Rica (207MW), Nicaragua (123.5MW) and Guatemala (52MW) are the main markets so far. The potential for further development of Central America's geothermal resources (with estimations between 3000MW and 13,000MW at 50 identified geothermal sites) remains significant though.

At the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean the Bouillante geothermal power plant (14.1MW) has been supplying 10% of Guadeloupe's electricity requirement. Many Caribbean Islands have to improve their energy situation, and opportunities for geothermal development exist. Dominica and Nevis provide good examples example. The geothermal resource estimations for both are large enough to exceed the electricity demand on both islands. According to the World Bank the cost of geothermal electricity would represent a significant improvement over costs associated with current fossil fuel generation. Dominica has started to develop its first geothermal power plant. Also the government of Montserrat is keen to start geothermal exploration soon.

South America meanwhile represents one of the largest undeveloped geothermal areas of the world, although it has no geothermal plant so far. Many South American countries have started exploration of their geothermal resources though, and a large number of projects are under development in different stages in Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Argentina.

A key player for development financing in Latin America is the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Experienced geothermal companies from all over the world are taking interest in the development of South America's geothermal resources. It seems likely the first geothermal power plant in Latin America will come from Italian Enel Green Power, which entered the construction phase on its 40MW Cerro Pabellón, Pampa Apacheta geothermal project in the Antofagasta region in Chile.

Turning to Asia, the Philippines (1972MW), Indonesia (1307MW) and Japan (536MW) are the largest producers of geothermal power in the region. The Indonesian government implemented a series of regulations, aiming to increase geothermal capacity to 5000MW by 2025. Currently, around 50 projects are under development in Indonesia by country's power utility PLN and independent power producers.

Under the Philippines' 2009–2030 Energy Plan, the Government set a target to increase its geothermal capacity by almost 1500MW to 3477MW. Currently, the development for a 20MW power plant is underway, and additionally Philippine's Energy Development Corporation is repowering its geothermal power plants.

As a consequence of the Fukushima disaster Japan's government shifted its focus of future power production from nuclear to renewable energy resources. The country is now looking at how to exploit its estimated 23GW geothermal potential. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has launched feed-in tariffs, while the Ministry of Environmental reduced restrictions on development in national parks where most of the potential is located. A consortium of Japanese companies hopes to develop up to 270MW of geothermal resources in the Fukushima area. Another 21 projects now under consideration are at different stages of research.

China, ranked seventeenth in geothermal electric power capacity with 24MW installed, plans to increase its capacity to 60MW by 2015.


The European geothermal market is dominated by Italy (882MW) and Iceland (674MW), having more than 90% of the installed geothermal capacity in region. Portugal, France and Germany (43.4MW combined) also contributed to Europe's total installed geothermal power capacity of 1.7GW.

The future for geothermal in Europe is bright with around 120 projects under development in 13 different countries. Currently Turkey and Iceland are leading the field of exploration, but Germany is considered an important player in the market too with 16 projects under development. The driving force in Germany is less the geothermal resource conditions, which are not as favorable as in lots of other countries, but rather the favorable incentive mechanism under the German renewable feed in law, which provides an attractive 20-year fixed tariff for geothermal power systems.

Turkey currently has about 100MW of installed geothermal capacity. According to the Turkey Geothermal Association the goal is to reach at least 550MW by 2015 requiring an investment around US$1.6bn. Currently 17 companies are developing about 500MW of additional capacity. Enel Green Power secured the rights of 142 exploration permits in western Turkey to develop the country's geothermal potential.

Africa's geothermal resources remain largely undeveloped. They are concentrated in the East African Rift System (EARS) which comprises the DR of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Only Kenya (216.5MW) and Ethiopia (7.3MW) have developed geothermal projects for electricity production in Africa so far. The estimated potential of their resources is more than 15GW. At the African Rift Geothermal Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2012, the countries in East Africa discussed opportunities for joint development plans for geothermal energy and financing fast-track geothermal projects. Some of the countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania have crafted policies and legal frameworks to develop their resources.

The largest African geothermal power plant (280MW) will be constructed in Kenya and finished in 2014 at a cost of 82.5bn Kenyan shillings (∼$980 million). The Olkaria Geothermal Project was funded by the Government of Kenya, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company, the World Bank, European Investment Bank, and development agencies of France, Germany and Japan. The Kenyan government plans to achieve a geothermal penetration of 50% of total electricity capacity in five years.

The REMIPEG databank

With its Renewable Electricity Market, Installed Power and Annual Electricity Generation (REMIPEG), German engineering firm Lahmeyer International has tracked the implementation of renewable electricity capacity around the world since 2008, updating its database annually, with Renewable Energy Focus then publishing the results.

Providing totals for newly installed plant, cumulative capacity, and estimated electricity generation output, country-by-country, for each renewable energy generation source, the databank is compiled using publicly available information along with expert information from consultants in the field.

The authors of the REMIPEG report are Dr. Andreas Wiese, Dr. Patric Kleineidam, Kuno Schallenberg, Florian Remann, Thorben Gunkel, Camilo Varas, Holger Zebner, Gildas Courtet, and Sergi Pedra from Lahmeyer International GmbH; Andrea Stooßa from the Institute of Environmental Technology and Energy Economics, Hamburg University of Technology, and Stadtreinigung Hamburg; and Martin Kaltschmitt, also from the Institute of Environmental Technology and Energy Economics, Hamburg University of Technology.

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