Central America’s vast geothermal potential could be a key tool in low-carbon economic development according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), if regional governments can adopt the policy and regulatory frameworks necessary to support its deployment. Central American countries, which currently rank among the world’s top countries in terms of the share of installed geothermal energy, have the potential for 20 times the currently installed capacity.
A workshop in El Salvador today, organised by IRENA and LaGeo, El Salvador’s state-owned generator of electricity from geothermal resources, and in association with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeitis (GIZ), seeks to identify the measures that may unlock the region’s vast geothermal potential.
“Central America holds some of the world’s most promising geothermal resources, that if utilised can help the region secure and deliver, inexpensive electricity while stimulating low-carbon economic growth,” said Gurbuz Gonul, Acting Director of Country, Support and Partnerships at IRENA. “Through the sharing of knowledge, experience and lessons learned from the leading geothermal countries in Central America, this workshop will help establish the building blocks for the stable, long-term policy framework needed to overcome barriers in geothermal development,” added Mr. Gonul.
“In the CEL Group we are proud to be part of this global effort to bring clean energy to our countries. Latin America needs renewables and this global network [the Global Geothermal Alliance] will give us the necessary tools to support the region,” said Mr. David Lopez Villafuerte, President of the Hydroelectric Commission of the Lempa River Group CEL.
“The development of more geothermal projects in the Central America region can boost the economy and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases,” said Ms. Tanja Gabriele Faller, Regional Director of GIZ’s Programme for the Promotion of Geothermal Energy in Central America. “Our Program for the Promotion of Geothermal Energy, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Government, supports this type of exchange of experiences, a resource as valuable as geothermal energy has to be tackled from different perspectives. For several years we have been working together with IRENA because we share its commitment to support countries in their transition to a renewable energy future," Ms. Faller added.
The region’s leading countries with the highest geothermal capacity are Costa Rica – 207 megawatts (MW), El Salvador – 204 MW and Nicaragua – 55 MW. Geothermal power could satisfy nearly double the region’s predicted electricity demand through 2020. Expansion of geothermal in the region is hampered by several barriers, including a lack of adequate policies and regulations for the use and development of geothermal resources.
“Geothermal energy has proven to provide stable and affordable electricity, and offers flexibility through the direct use of geothermal heat in domestic, commercial and industrial sectors,’ added Mr. Gonul of IRENA.
IRENA started implementing a regional capacity building program in Central America under the Global Geothermal Alliance, a multistakeholder initiative aiming to increase the share of geothermal energy in the global energy mix. The capacity building program is supporting the development of capabilities of various stakeholders along the geothermal value chain in Central American countries. Today’s workshop constitutes part of this programme, strengthening the institutional and human capacities of the region, in the areas of geothermal technology, policy, regulation and finance.
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