Geothermal power is heading upwards in Europe according to the latest EGEC geothermal market report.
In 2017 the European geothermal market has continued to rise almost reaching 3 GW of installed capacity.
The 15 power plants added during 2017, shown in figure 1, amounting to a total of 354 MWe of geothermal power capacity, confirm the three main facts that have characterized this 2017:
- THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE TURKISH GEOTHERMAL MARKET – GUIDING THE EUROPEAN GEOTHERMAL GROWTH
- THE INAUGURATION OF THE FIRST EVER GEOTHERMAL POWER PLANT IN HUNGARY – DEMONSTRATING THE COMMUNITARIAN ATTENTION TOWARD THIS AVAILABLE AND COMMON RENEWABLE RESOURCE
- PORTUGAL AND ISLAND CONTINUE TO DEVELOP THEIR LOCAL MARKETS – WITH A PARTICULAR EYE ON NEW SOLUTIONS ALSO FOR REMOTE AREAS AND ISLANDS LIKE THE AZORES
In Europe today there are 117 geothermal power plants in operation, with a total installed capacity of around 2847 MWe, 30 projects are under development, and 160 projects under investigation.
If all these scenarios were to evolve positively, in 2020 Europe could register a total of 3 GW in operation over the continent. Figure 2 depicts the actual situation, highlighting the positive 10% growth registered in the last 5 years. Despite the positive trend however, the first EGEC Market Report in 2012 had predicted an installed capacity of 3 GW already in 2016/2017. This slowdown is due to two main facts: the 2008 economic and financial crisis and the consequent budgetary constraints, and the higher number of years required for the exploration phase, especially for the newcomers in the geothermal sector. In UK and Greece the first plants were expected to be in operation, but due to lack of financial support also in these countries geothermal development delayed. UK should have its first geothermal power plant in operation very soon, and by 2020 exploration work should begin in Greece.
Due to certain changes in the regulatory and financial frameworks, and the investment uncertainty, also Italy, France and Germany have not reached the predicted goals. Most of the new project ideas in these three countries, are coming from new actors in the sector with relative financial capacity. The communitarian financial situation makes it harder for them to raise the needed funds, and preparatory time for exploration and permitting has been longer than expected.
Turkey certainly leads the way with 90% of the total growth. A dedicated regulatory framework, a stable feed-in-tariff, increasing electricity demand and a strong political commitment all favour a great evolution, passing from 115 MW in 2011 to 1200 MW at the end of 2017.
According to EGEC Secretary General Philippe Dumas, these are the same drivers that should be activated all over the continent “Market actors have to embrace the new opportunities that are offered in order to see further geothermal market development in Europe.” Geothermal energy has to demonstrate its greater contribution to the renewable energy mix today, in terms for energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and also as primary renewable energy source for remote areas.
This is true also concerning the turbine manufacturing market. To date the major share of the total installed capacity in Europe still belongs to traditional steam/flash technology, even if since 2012 nearly 80% of the new installed capacity comes from binary technology, all ORC. Also, the future electricity market design in Europe will require more flexibility to adapt to the forthcoming electrical grid organization. Geothermal power plants will have to provide adequate power generation and thus, turbine manufacturers will have to offer a new technology capable of ramping output up and down on demand.
Dedicated regulatory framework, strong political commitment, technological innovation, flexibility and efficiency: these are the key words for geothermal energy to become a primary energy source in the future European energy mix.