Geothermal Energy to Boost Development of the Global South
The geothermal heat produced by the earth’s molten core is a resource receiving more and more attention across the global South. Properly harnessed, geothermal energy offers a low-cost, non-polluting source of power and hot water that does not harm the environment or contribute to climate change.
The country that has made the most of this resource is the Scandinavian island country of Iceland, one of the world’s most volcanically active places.
The country was once one of the poorest in Europe, dependent on fishing as its main income source. But by 2007-2008, Iceland was ranked as having the highest level of human development in the world.
One of the contributors to this impressive improvement in human development is the tapping of the country’s geothermal energy reserves.
According to the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), “Iceland is widely considered the success story of the geothermal community. The country of just over 300,000 people is now fully powered by renewable forms of energy, with 17 per cent of electricity and 87 per cent of heating needs provided by geothermal energy.”
Worldwide, geothermal energy supplies power to 24 countries, producing enough electricity to meet the needs of 60 million people (GEA).
The Philippines generates 23 per cent of its electricity from geothermal energy and is the world’s second-biggest producer behind the United States. Geothermal energy is also helping to provide power in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia and Mexico.
Energy is critical to advances in human development. Electricity enables the introduction of lighting in homes and the use of washing machines and other modern appliances and communications tools. And, crucially, it does not harm the natural environment like conventional energy sources such as coal, gas or nuclear power withits legacy of radioactive waste.
While not all countries are as well positioned as volcanically active Iceland or the Philippines, many can find a way to tap this natural resource.
Iceland is widely considered the success story of the geothermal community
Interest in this power source is increasing in Central and South America, whose energy consumption is forecast to increase by 72 per cent by 2035 ( International Energy Outlook 2011).
South America currently relies heavily on hydroelectric power, but this is proving insufficient to meet the growing demand. A World Bank study says that “Latin American and Caribbean countries could boost region-wide electricity supply by 30 per cent by 2030 by diversifying the energy mix to include hydropower, natural gas, and renewable energy” (ESMAP).
The areas best placed to tap this resource are located along the Pacific Rim from Mexico to Chile and in parts of the Caribbean.
The 2012 Geothermal: International Market Overview Report by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) found that Argentina, Chile and Peru are moving ahead with plans. – (October 2012)