Tag Archives: geothermal

Graphic Spotlight: What is the role of public finance in deploying geothermal energy in developing countries?

March 9, 2016 |


Despite great potential, geothermal deployment in developing countries has been below expectations since 2010. Geothermal energy has the potential to provide significant amounts of low-carbon electricity in many developing countries and is the cheapest source of available power in some developing countries.

The major barrier is securing early-stage project finance given the scarce public resources available to invest in exploration and development. While some countries are pursuing policies to liberalize energy and electricity markets to attract private investment, significant difficulties remain.

CPI analyzed three case studies on behalf of the Climate Investment Funds, with the aim of helping policymakers and development finance institutions understand which policy and financing tools to use in order to enable rapid and cost-effective deployment of geothermal for electricity.

Role of public finance in deploying geothermal energy

Our case studies show that the increase in tariffs needed to provide sufficient returns to incentivize private investment can be entirely offset by public measures addressing specific risks. This graphic illustrates how these public risk mitigation measures (orange) combine to result in a final levelized cost of electricity for a privately developed project (dark grey) that is even lower than what it would have been for the state to develop it (light grey).

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Driving geothermal development in developing countries

August 26, 2015 |


Geothermal has the potential to play a big role in a low-carbon energy transition but while deployment of wind and solar has taken off in recent years, deployment of geothermal has remained steady but unspectacular for decades. This despite the fact that it is broadly cost competitive with fossil fuel alternatives across the world and is the cheapest source of available power in some developing countries with rapidly growing energy demand.

Among developing countries, only Turkey and Kenya exceeded forecasts for geothermal deployment over the last five years. Elsewhere, over 3GW of power has been left in the ground, mainly in Indonesia and the Philippines but also in new markets such as Chile and Ethiopia.

We estimate that approximately USD 133 billion would be needed for investment in geothermal in developing countries if current plans to build 23 GW of capacity by 2030 are to be met. The scarcity of public finance available for geothermal in these countries is a barrier to achieving these targets but private investment could fill this gap. Many governments in countries with significant resources have liberalized energy and electricity markets and this could result in an investment opportunity of USD 60-77 billion, with average returns on equity of 14-16% if the main project related risks are addressed.

Our analysis, commissioned by the Climate Investment Funds to improve understanding of the role of public finance in different developing countries, suggests that governments and development finance institutions would need to provide the rest of the USD 133 billion in the form of financing and risk mitigation tools needed to attract private investment in these countries.

This requires a 7-10 fold increase in current allocations of public money to the sector for future development. In addition, while significant efforts at the global level to increase public finance commitments for the early stages of geothermal project development mean they now account for 11% of current commitments, in order to meet demand, finance allocated to this stage of projects should be up to 17% of public finance distributed and targeted particularly at the test drilling phase. Part of current public finance could also be refocused on the management of resource risk during the later stages of project operations.

In our most recent report, we draw lessons from a year of analysis of geothermal projects and markets in developing countries to identify how public finance from governments and development finance institutions can be used to best drive private investment. Key factors include:

  • Supportive regulatory frameworks for geothermal, the basic condition for growth together with well-designed feed-in-tariffs aligned with the project‘s lifetime or loan terms available in the local debt market
  • Differentiated public support during the exploration phase, supporting early public exploration and tendering of proven fields in markets with challenging investment environments, while incentivizing early stage exploration in more mature private markets
  • Favorable loan conditions and measures to unlock its provision

Following these recommendations could increase energy access and put those developing countries with geothermal resources on a path to green growth. Our case studies of geothermal projects suggest this can be done without increasing the levelized cost of electricity generated, and thus power tariffs for consumers. When national and international public measures lower financing costs and address specific political, currency and exploration risks relevant for the private sector, private development models can deliver power at similar or lower cost than public development models. This allows governments to increase energy supply and access while committing only 15-35% of what they would invest were they to develop the whole project through local public utilities, freeing resources for further investment. This is something that should be at the forefront of the minds of national energy policymakers and the development banks that support them.

A version of this blog first appeared as an opinion piece on Environmental Finance.

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Geothermal: Risks shouldn’t overshadow benefits

November 12, 2014 |


Geothermal is competitive. Its low cost per unit of energy generated, when compared with other renewable energies and fossil-fuelled generation make it an attractive option for policy-makers in developing countries to meet growing energy demand.

It is also compatible with energy grid needs. Its high capacity factor and its ability to continuously feed into the energy system makes it particularly suitable for reliable baseload production while its potential flexibility makes it suitable to respond to fluctuating supply from technologies such as wind and solar PV depending on a power grid’s needs.

Geothermal costs compared to other energy technologies Cost comparisons between energy technologies show that geothermal requires high up front investment but can provide low cost power

However, risks in the early exploration and drilling phases, combined with high investment costs, have slowed the scale up of the technology and limited the private investment that is needed if geothermal is to play a bigger role in the energy system. Climate Policy Initiative’s (CPI) recently published analysis of global geothermal markets and financing models finds that public finance plays the most prominent role in financing geothermal. 76-90% of all project investments utilize some aspect of public debt or equity support, as well as support instruments.

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