Tracking Clean Energy Progress

Not on track

Geothermal electricity generation increased by an estimated 6% in 2018, much more than the average growth of the five previous years. Nevertheless, the technology is still not on track to reach the SDS level, which would require a 10% annual increase in generation over 2018‑30. Policies tackling challenges associated with pre-development risks are needed to increase the deployment of geothermal for power.

Heymi Bahar
Lead author

Geothermal generation

	Historical	Forecast	SDS
2000	52.0		
2001	51.6		
2002	52.3		
2003	54.1		
2004	56.5		
2005	58.3		
2006	59.6		
2007	62.3		
2008	64.9		
2009	67.0		
2010	68.1		
2011	69.2		
2012	70.2		
2013	71.6		
2014	77.4		
2015	80.5		
2016	81.7		
2017	87.5		
2018	92.7		
2019		93.0	
2020		97.1	
2021		101.5	
2022		106.1	
2023		110.6	
2025			162.2
2030			282.0
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Back to Renewables sector | TCEP overview 🕐 Last updated Friday, May 24, 2019

Tracking progress

Electricity generation from geothermal increased by an estimated 6% year-on-year in 2018, much more than the average growth of the previous five years. However, the technology is still not on track to reach Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) levels, which would require that generation increase 10% per year to 2030.

Over the last five years, geothermal capacity additions averaged 500 MW per year. Most of this growth was in emerging economies because they have abundant and untapped resource availability.

Medium-term prospects for geothermal

In the next five years, average annual geothermal installations are expected to accelerate to 700 MW, driven by strong project development, mainly in Indonesia, the Philippines, Kenya and Turkey, with smaller-scale deployment in nearly 30 other countries.

Despite the recent acceleration in deployment, pre-development risks are still a major barrier to securing financing for geothermal projects, which hampers faster expansion.

Innovation gaps

Geothermal energy technologies have differing levels of maturity. The exploitation of hot rock resources, e.g. by means of EGS which is currently in the validation phase, has particular potential for improvement

Long-term, sustained and substantially higher research, development and demonstration resources are needed to accelerate cost reductions and design, and bring novel geothermal concepts to market. These advanced technologies have to be proven in pilot plants, meaning that strong government support for innovative small plants is needed.

R&D will need to focus on understanding better how fractures open and propagate in different stress regimes and rock types, in order to be able to better assess the hot rock potential. Similarly, a common approach in identification of advanced hydrothermal resources will help assessing its potential.

Development of advanced drilling technologies

Drilling costs account for 40‑70% of the total capital costs of a geothermal power project. It is also a very time-consuming part of the project.

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Expanding geothermal energy use

So far, utilisation of geothermal energy has been concentrated in areas with naturally occurring water or steam, and relatively permeable rock. However, the vast majority of geothermal energy within drilling reach – up to 5 km with current technologies and economics – is in relatively dry, low-permeability rock. Heat stored in low-porosity and/or low-permeability rock is commonly referred to as a hot rock resource, and in contrast with most hydrothermal resources in use today for power generation, hot rock resources are available worldwide.

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Improving understanding of geothermal resources

Geological databases already exist for several parts of the world, but they could benefit from incorporating and aggregating the more complex data emerging from advanced remote sensing and monitoring of hydrothermal resources around the world. Combining these at the greatest granularity, extending them geographically, and reinterpreting, recompiling and standardising them would enable the creation of a publicly accessible, globally relevant database for use in assessing, accessing and exploiting geothermal resources.

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Additional resources