Geothermal energy in IEA’s 450 Scenario

Geothermal energy (electricity and heat energy) have to -at least- increase ten- to twentyfold over 4 decades as part of the big 450 mission.

Over the course of 2007, 2008 and 2009 world leaders have agreed to limit the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration to (no more than) 450 ppm – which was reconfirmed last year during the climate summit in Cancún.

But if they ‘keep their promise’ and the world succeeds to drastically cut emissions and stabilise the atmosphere, we would owe that to the International Energy Agency.

All renewables are to bare a brunt

It is the IEA that keeps reminding us of the concrete requirements for The 450 Scenario. Oil should peak in this decade. What’s more, coal should peak in this decade. And the ‘combined share of renewables and nuclear should double to 38 percent’ over the next 24 years – globally that is.

That’s how the IEA formulated things in November, when they released their World Energy Outlook 2010, four months before the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan – and the entire world got to replicate the word Fukushima.

We had the ‘nuclear renaissance’ just a few years ago, but before any new reactors were built (in the West), we now have the ‘anti-nuclear renaissance’ and Europe is cutting off part of its zero carbon power supply.

If this trend continues renewable energy will not just have to drastically increase worldwide to do its bit to get to the 38 percent zero carbon energy by 2035 – it would also have to compensate for a possible decline in the nuclear share.

Minimal geothermal expansion

That’s why the IEA now clearly adds ‘at least’ to the 450 targets in its different renewables roadmaps. Of these the high potentials are wind, solar, sustainable biomass – and geothermal energy. Yesterday, during the EURELECTRIC conference (annual meeting of the European electricity sector) in Stockholm, the IEA released its special geothermal roadmap.

Currently ‘the world’ [thank you Iceland] produces 0.3 percent of its electricity from tapping the internal heat [which is partly 'nuclear' btw] of the Earth. This energy source* is also slowly being explored for the use of [aren’t we clever] heating buildings, for which it currently provides 0.2 percent of global demand.

According to the IEA release these percentages will have to at least increase to 3.5 and 3.8 percent towards 2050 – 1167% and 1900% respectively. We’ll get back to the other renewable energy roadmaps.

[*) The roadmaps looks into deep geothermal energy. Ground source heat pumps were not considered.]

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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