Geothermal Direct Use | Program Profile

Leveraging Earth’s Heat to Decarbonize Industry, Transport, Agriculture, and Buildings

About half of all energy consumption worldwide is used to provide heating for homes and industry. Fossil fuels and conventional equipment account for 80 percent of heating technology sales. However, to accomplish the goal of decarbonization, clean heating technologies will need to increase from 20 percent to 50 percent by 2030.

There has been significant progress at the power sector level to decarbonize electricity generation. Yet, additional work is needed to decarbonize other sectors including, agriculture, industry, transport, and building construction. These collectively account for almost 60 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The heat from geothermal resources is a widely available energy source that can displace fossil fuels in various applications. As decarbonization becomes increasingly pivotal in the climate action agenda, governments, international organizations, and key private sector players need to scale up their efforts towards harnessing the potential of geothermal direct use. There are currently 88 countries reporting geothermal energy utilization, estimated at one million in annual renewable energy consumption. This displaces about 600 million barrels of oil and more than 250 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Yet, despite its great potential, geothermal energy is a relatively unknown energy alternative, leading to its underutilization, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

GDU Box 1

The direct use of geothermal energy also contributes to achieving the targets of several UN SDGs, as outlined in the table below:

GDU supports its objectives through three main activities:

  1. Knowledge generation.  The program is currently compiling a global market study on geothermal direct use, which will present an overview of the direct use applications, technologies, state of the market and best practices in project development. The study will also synthesize knowledge on the potential for geothermal direct use in each global region, showcasing commercial opportunities for development through case studies.
  2. Regional or country-specific studies and technical support. GDU works with country and regional teams to provide technical and financial support to evaluate the potential of utilizing geothermal energy. The work, which contributes to establishing a pipeline of projects, focuses on upstream studies and technical assistance.
  3. Capacity building. The program organizes training sessions and workshops with geothermal sector experts, government officials in developing countries, and other external stakeholders. This will help to build capacity for the development of geothermal direct use.

Our work

In 2021, GDU provided technical assistance to support projects in Kazakhstan and Turkey.

  • Turkey. The program carried out an assessment of the technical and economic viability of different options for the direct use of geothermal energy in Turkey, which examined the technical, legal, and regulatory barriers to potential investments. Officials in the country have identified 239 geothermal fields representing an estimated potential of 60,000 megawatts of thermal energy. Although these fields are spread across the country, about 80 percent are concentrated in the Western Anatolia region.  The fields are suitable for agriculture, district heating, several industrial processes, and thermal tourism. About 10 percent of the fields, which represents an estimated 40,000 megawatts of thermal energy, have temperatures high enough to be suitable to generate up to 4000 megawatts of clean electricity for the region. This study is expected to inform World Bank lending operations.
  • Kazakhstan. The country has a significant number of geothermal resources. Between 2020 and 2021, with support from the government of Iceland, ESMAP contributed to two studies that explored the potential of geothermal direct use in district heating in Kazakhstan. The findings from the first study, entitled: Legal, Regulatory, and Institutional Review of Kazakhstan’s Geothermal Sector, indicate that the prevalence of fuel subsidies in the market environment for geothermal heat is not encouraging private investment in GDU or public demand for GDU heating services. This study also found a lack of clarity in the geothermal permitting and licensing process, primarily because of the different institutions involved. The second study, which will be published in 2022, is a pre-feasibility analysis for two locations in the country: Almaty and Turkistan.

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