Geothermal in Tanzania, Uganda, Costa Rica, Dominica, Mexico, Nicaragua, China, Indonesia, Japan, Iceland

This post brings you geothermal headlines from Tanzania, Uganda, Costa Rica, Dominica, Mexico, Nicaragua, China, Indonesia, Japan, and Iceland.


Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, produced by geothermal activity.

Image Credit:

Africa and the Middle East
Tanzania – Tanzania Can Learn From Iceland Geothermal Energy Strides

Geothermal energy is not among the much known sources of energy in Tanzania.
However, the country is believed to be endowed with an abundant resource base that can generate electricity and furthermore utilise the spent geothermal fluid from power plant in social-economic activities such as agriculture, fishing, and recreational activities and in industries. According to the available geoscientific data and current technology, the crude estimated potential of above 5,000MW of electricity has been established in Tanzania.
So what really is geothermal energy?
It is simply the heat derived from the core of the earth as a result of reactions/decays of radioactive materials. On the surface, geothermal energy is usually manifested by presence of hot springs, fumaroles, steaming ground and altered ground, among other geothermal signatures.
In Tanzania, some of these manifestations are found in Maji ya Moto in Arusha, Kisaki-Morogoro, Luhoi and Utete in Rufiji, Kilambo in Busokelo (Mbeya) and Maji ya Moto area in Songwe.
Most of these indications are located in the Tanzania along the Eastern African Rift which has traversed the country in both eastern and western arms, that is to say, Tanzania is strategically located and can utilise the available potential.
According to studies done, geothermal energy has been proved to be renewable, affordable, reliable and environmentally friendly electricity supply. Contrary to other power generation technologies, geothermal power plants operate at a consistent base load power production level twenty-four hours a day regardless of changing weather, providing a uniquely reliable and continuous source of clean energy.
As a baseload power source, geothermal is well suited as a substitute for diesel based generation power in our utility system.
Since geothermal resources have to be cultivated locally, its development brings significant economic advantages to local economies.
In Iceland, geothermal energy has played a key role in today’s improved quality life of Icelanders, Dr Haukur Ingi Jonasson from Reykjavík University says. In fact, Iceland was once the world’s poorest third world country 70 years ago, dependent upon peat and imported coal for its energy needs.
Iceland utilised its strategic geological volcanic location in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to develop its huge geothermal potential and made transition to the 20th century. Currently Iceland with total surface area of 103,000 square kilometres and with a total population of 336,000 has installed electricity capacity of 2,771MW, where geothermal constitute 665 MW (24 per cent) of the total generation, according to statistics available in the Iceland National Energy Authority.
Iceland being a cold climate country with annual temperature ranging from -10 °C to 15 °C, electricity is not only main form of geothermal energy utilisation, geothermal hot waters are used to provide heating in various social and economic activities.
For example, 90 per cent of Icelandic homes are heated with geothermal water, 85 per cent greenhouses farms are heated with hot geothermal water, swimming pools are heated with the geothermal hot water including the famous Blue Lagoon which attract close to 1 million tourists annually. Roughly 15 per cent of large fish farming projects are done with help of hot geothermal waters where 7,000 tonnes were produced in 2013. Football fields across the country are fitted with geothermal heating to keep the pitches, players and fans warm throughout the year.
There are endless success stories about the geothermal industry in Iceland, but what can Tanzania learn from all this?
Firstly, it is advisable to establish a Geothermal Development Institution that should be backed up by strong legal and regulatory framework, says Mr Engilbert Guðmundsson, the former World Bank Partnership Coordinator for multilateral financial institutions and Director General of Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA).
The government of Tanzania has already established the Tanzania Geothermal Development Company (TGDC), which is a subsidiary company of Tanesco and is a 100 per cent state-owned agency. The aim of TGDC is to accelerate the development of geothermal resources in the country and to realize its ambitious vision of 2025.
However, the current geothermal regulatory framework is not well coordinated. There is still no geothermal policy and no legislation that can link together all the existing structure.
Secondly, there is need to have a risk profile and financing arrangement.
“Geothermal industry is associated with highest degree of uncertainty at the early stage of exploration which is also accompanied with high upfront costs and hence little participation of private sector at this phase,” says Dr Bjarni Pálsson, Manager Power Projects Department in Iceland National Power Company.
He says the government of Iceland together with available geothermal risks mitigation facilities in Europe carry these risks through financing between $25 million and $35 million till confirming the existing of the resource. The private sector comes in later and finances the power plant construction under the suitable Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements.
Comprehensive business cases outlining number of options with all risks must be prepared in advance to recommend further commitment of funds. Tanzania is eligible in various financing windows that can co-finance the early stage of geothermal exploration.
Some of these options include Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) with Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries Program (SREP) and Clean Technology Fund (CTF) both administered by the African Development Bank (AfDB), Geothermal Risk Mitigation Fund (GRMF) under African Union.
Thirdly, Institutional strengthening and capacity Building-Geothermal is multidisciplinary industry as it cuts across science, engineering, social and environmental know-how.
Tanzania has so far limited experts in the industry. United Nations Univeristy Geothermal Training Programme UNU-GPT in Reykjavík Iceland under support of the UNDP, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been financing fellowships to assisting developing countries around the world with significant geothermal potential in building up groups of specialists that cover most aspects of geothermal exploration and development in short courses, Masters and PhD studies.
According to Dr Lúdvík S. Georgsson, director at UNU GTP, until 2015, only about 10 Tanzanians have taken short courses and Master’s degree studies in the programme compared to 109 Kenyans who have taken up courses of up to PhD level.
In addition to human resources development the government of Kenya has invested in developing geothermal capacity of 594MW. The government of Tanzania through its geothermal implementation institutions needs to emulate Kenya so as to fast-track development of geothermal industry in the country.
Lastly, geothermal development doesn’t offer immediate solutions to existing power problems. Development of geothermal field from the exploration phase to full convectional power plant (with exclusion of wellhead generation) can take several years ranging from five to nine and also requires a lot of resources since geothermal development are an expensive venture. In some countries like Kenya, a new concept of wellhead generation has been adopted. This concept enables project owner to generate power within a year and relieve itself from the long wait for the conventional power plant development period.
Stepwise resource development is the best mode to understand the geothermal resource, power plants as small as a few tens of Megawatts can be economically built to start generation.
Geothermal is truly renewable, reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy. The key stakeholders must collectively strategize and prioritise plans to accelerate the development of the untapped geothermal resources in the country.
Government involvement in financing the upstream activities is one very fundamental step to speed up development of geothermal energy in the country.
Geothermal policy, legislation and regulatory framework must be established to link with available frameworks and consequently encourage participation of private sector.
Stepwise generation of geothermal power is vital for understanding the reservoir behaviour and avoiding possibility of depleting the reservoir due to overexploitation.
Geothermal energy, if properly developed will be able to power the industries in environmentally friendly way and will pave a way to meet the country industrialization objectives as stated in Tanzania Development Vision 2025 and as advocated by President John Magufuli.
Uganda – Toshiba Corporation to Invest in Uganda’s Geothermal Power

Japan’s Toshiba Corporation has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) on a comprehensive partnership in geothermal power.
The agreement will see the parties collaborate in power generation projects, including personnel development, according to statement released Sunday by the energy ministry.
The parties signed the MOU during the Tokyo International Conference on African Development 2016 (“TICAD VI”), that ends today in Nairobi, Kenya.
Toshiba will collaborate in the development and supply of major equipment for a geothermal power plant, create operation and management guidelines, and cooperate in personnel development, the statement said.
“The development of Uganda’s geothermal energy resources is in line with our energy policy objectives of increasing power generation capacity and diversifying our energy mix in order to achieve least cost, affordable and stable energy supply”, said Dr. Fred Kabagambe-Kaliisa, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, at the signing ceremony.
“We are very confident that the Government of Uganda and Toshiba will create a strong Public-Private-Partnership to develop the Geothermal Energy resources.”
Toyoaki Fujita, Business Development Executive of Toshiba’s Energy Systems & Solutions Company said, “We hope to build a strong partnership with Uganda and to contribute to the development of sustainable power supply there. Toshiba’s Energy Systems & Solutions Company is a world leader in geothermal power generation, and I believe that our established expertise can contribute to the geothermal power supply in Uganda.”
Uganda, lying west of the Great Rift Valley, has rich geothermal potential, equivalent to 500 megawatts. Currently, about 60% of power generation capacity is from hydroelectric power, and the country has long promoted construction of hydro power plants.
Adding geothermal to the mix will contribute to supply stability and the ability to meet rising demand stimulated by high economic growth-currently increasing at about 10% per a year, the statement added.
Toshiba has delivered 53 geothermal turbines, with a total capacity of 3,400 megawatts, to plants in Japan, the USA, the Philippines, Iceland and other countries around the world. This represents approximately 23%*, of the world’s installed geothermal capacity, making Toshiba the world’s top supplier.
In the African market, Toshiba most recently delivered four geothermal turbines to Kenya that started commercial operation in 2015. The company has also concluded MOUs with geothermal power development companies in Ethiopia in 2014, Tanzania in 2015 and Djibouti in August this year, all covering comprehensive collaboration in the geothermal power generation business.
Toshiba Group will continue to contribute to stable electricity supply and the realization of a low-carbon economy.
The Americas
Costa Rica – Costa Rica With Additional 165 MW of Geothermal Plants in the Pipeline
Costa Rica remains a leading country in Latin America when it comes to the utilisation of geothermal energy. Surpassed currently only by Mexico, the country intends to grow its geothermal power generation capacity further, as we also reported in July this year.
Today, Costa Rica has an installed power generation capacity of 207 MW as reported by the government, provided by two plants. Both plants are operated by the Costa Rica energy utility (ICE). The Miravalles field is the most developed field in the country today. The total installed capacity is 163.5 MW coming from five units.
* Miravalles Unit I and II – each with a generation capacity of 55 MW
* Miravalles Unit III – 29.5 MW
* Miravalles Unit V – 19 MW
* Miravalles backpressure unit 5 MW
The Las Pailas geothermal field was developed later with studies done 1998 to 2003, leading to the development of a 42.5 MW power plant. The plant started operation in 2011. The plant is though only providing about 35 MW net.
The country is currently working on expanding its geothermal capacity with 165 MW in the pipeline. An expansion of the Las Pailas plant is planned and is expected to generate between 35 and 55 MW. Start of operation is planned for 2018. ICE is also currently developing the Borinquen geothermal field, with a planned 110 MW capacity (two units of 55 MWe each), which are expected to start operation by 2023/ 2024.
Dominica – Dominica’s Geothermal Negotiating Team Chairman says Advancement of the Project is Very Important
Chairman of Dominica’s Geothermal Negotiating Team Vince Henderson says the advancement of the country’s geothermal project is one of the main reasons he is on island at present.
Henderson says he has been involved with the country’s geothermal development from its inception, as he was tasked with that portfolio by then Energy Minister Reginald Austrie.
During his 2016/2017 National Budget Address, PM Skerrit announced 46.3million dollars had been allocated towards the construction of a Seven (7) megawatt geothermal plant in Dominica for a 2-year period. To date, government has spent over 80 million dollars in exploring Dominica’s geothermal potential.
Henderson says work is ongoing, and while persons may not see the physical work, there is work being done.
Meanwhile Energy Minister Reginald Austrie says Henderson accepted this task handed down to him with open hands.
To listen to clips, follow the link below:
Mexico – Mexico Awards Three Geothermal Exploration Permits to Enal and Grupo Dragón

In a press release last week, Mexico’s Ministry of Energy, through the Directorate General of Clean Energy, announced having awarded three new exploration permits geothermal resources in the states of Guanajuato, Baja California and Jalisco.
After fulfilling all the requirements of the Geothermal Energy Act (LEG) and its Regulations, exploration permits were given to ENAL Group and Dragon Group. Both companies are 100% Mexican companies with engineering knowledge, specializing in the development of geothermal power projects, from early phase of development until the development of a geothermal power plant. ENAL and Grupo Dragón have extensive experience in the sector and have highly qualified personnel in all specialties required for a project of this nature.
Geothermal energy is clean, with minimal emissions to the environment, constant production renewable resource whose surface to install a geothermal plant MW, it is lower than other plants. Mexico ranks fourth worldwide in installed capacity of electric power, with five geothermal fields in production.
As part of the energy reform, in August 2014 the new Law on Geothermal Energy which regulates the recognition, exploration and exploitation of geothermal resources Mexicans was issued. The entry into force of this Act has enabled encourage growth potential of the geothermal industry exponentially. Since its publication date, little less than two years, have been awarded six concessions for exploitation of geothermal resources and 18 exploration permits with estimated over 500 additional MW potential.
The permissions granted to ENAL Group are located in the states of Guanajuato and Baja California to explore geothermal resources in an area of 144 and 145 km2 respectively, while the permission granted to Dragon Group is located in the State of Jalisco to explore an area of 105.45 km2, such permits are valid for three years and are renewable only once.
Nicaragua – Geothermal Development Moving Ahead in Nicaragua
Nicaragua continues to leverage its high potential for geothermal generation thanks to the advancement of public private investment and attractive legal framework promoted by the country’s government.
The geothermal energy potential of Nicaragua is estimated to exceed 2,000 MW, which is the third highest in Latin America.
We reported earlier this month about the progress by private player Polaris Energy at its San Jacinto-Tizate plant and recent drilling program.
The results of a recently concluded drilling campaign provided great optimism and the company plans to explore new geothermal wells in the second half of this year. In late July, Polaris completed the third and final stage of drilling a new exploration of geothermal wells in the San Jacinto project.
The findings have great expectations of potential increase in capacity of geothermal. Marc Murnaghan, President of Polaris, said “steam flows Plant San Jacinto-Tizate are strong and sustainable we believe that we shall see tangible results of the drilling program as we continue progressing as planned.”
Asia and the Pacific
China – Geothermal Energy Seen as Solution for Tibet’s Power Shortages in the Winter
The Yangbajing geothermal power plant in Tibet is currently providing electricity to around 50,000 Tibetan households, so a recent report by CCTV.
Today, 43% of Tibet’s energy mix comes from renewables. With a strong reliance on hydro power, there are though power shortages in the winter, which makes geothermal an interesting source of electricity.
But there are challenges to the development operation of plants, due to the high altitude and difficult climate. From a development perspective, the rather large proportion of residential power demand in comparison to industrial use, provides smaller tariff revenues for power plants.
There is though a strong potential for geothermal power and there is an interest by private firms to invest. The government of Tibet is planning to double investments in generating capacity and grid construction over the next five years. Geothermal energy might be the solution.
Indonesia – Merangin Eyes Funds for Geothermal Plant

The local administration is set to hold a tender for investors to develop a geothermal power plant in Graho Nyambu, Merangin regency, Jambi.
Regent H. Al Haris said on Thursday that the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry had opened up opportunities for investors to develop the area. He expected the tender to be held immediately.
“If the tender starts, it could support power demand in Merangin regency in the future. We will make efforts so that by 2018 all villages can benefit from power supplies through state power company PLN’s power grids and other power sources,” he said.
According to Haris, geothermal energy in Graho Nyambu had the potential to generate approximately 200 megawatts of electricity, meaning the program could light up villages across the regency.
The Merangin administration is currently making efforts to achieve energy self-reliance through the power supply program.
Japan – Japanese PM Set to Announce Geothermal Aid
The government of Japan government is set to announce financial assistance for Kenya geothermal power projects when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development to be held in Nairobi beginning this coming weekend.
Japanese media reported the planned aid deal will see Tokyo provide both financing and know-how in Kenya from the initial stage, hoping to improve the odds of success in exploration.
The grants will cover a portion of pre-construction stage costs, which can run up to Sh10 billion ($100 million).
Kenya government is racing to meet an ambitious target it set for itself in 2013 to grow the installed power capacity from 1,708 megawatts to 6,708 megawatts by 2017 to spur industrial growth and light more homes.
In addition Tokyo is expected to offer low-interest loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and other financing available for geothermal projects that have reached the construction stage.
Kenya has Africa’s biggest concentration of geothermal power capacity mainly located in the Olkaria area of Naivasha and Baringo.
It is expected that during Mr Abe’s visit Japanese companies will also be angling for the deals to help Kenya build its generation capacity.
Toyota Tsusho and Toshiba already won a 2011 contract for geothermal power facilities in Olkaria.
Others expected to bid for similar deals include Mitsubishi Corp, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power, Marubeni and Fuji Electric.
Toyota Tsusho and national utility Kenya Electricity Generating Company are currently planning feasibility studies for geothermal installations beyond Olkaria.
Iceland – Geothermal Energy Giving Iceland Lowest Heating Costs in the Nordics

Iceland is proud of its geothermal energy heritage and continuously boasts the benefits it brings to its people, be it in the quality of living, swimming outside year-round, low electricity costs, growing vegetables year-round near the Arctic Circle … last but not least the geothermal wonders visited by tourists and Icelanders alike.
But there are not only the overall benefits to the well-being of people or economic benefits to the country itself. While all over the world, people experience high utility costs particularly in countries that need heating during colder months, people residing in Iceland benefit from the lowest heating costs of all the countries in the Nordics.
The Nordics are the countries of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.
In a recent study done by Samorka, the Federation of Energy and Utility Companies in Iceland, the cost of household heating in the capital cities of the Nordic countries was analysed.
According to the study, it costs five times more per year to heat households in Helsinki in Finland than in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. Central heating costs are far lower in Iceland and is three times lower than the next cheapest is heat.
The findings are based on data from the largest utilities providing district heating in each of the capital cities compared for the study.
For easier reading, I adapted the charts by Samorka and provided data in EUR based on the exchange rate of August 16, 2016, the release date of the report.
In Reykjavik, the annual cost of heating for a 100 square meter apartment (around 1,080 square feet) and an estimated use of 495 tons of oil equivalent/ annually, the cost is EUR 648 ($724), compared to this – residents of Helsinki, the capital of Finland pay nearly five times the amount or EUR 3,243 ($3,623) per year.
The second most expensive city, based on heating cost is Stockholm/ Sweden, followed by Copenhagen/ Denmark and Oslo/ Norway.
The study by Samorka also looks into taxation for heating and this is where things become quite interesting. While the overall cost for the heating itself is very similar across in Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo, a special tax significantly adds to heating costs in Helsinki.
With 90% of all households in Iceland heating with geothermal energy, in Reykjavik all houses are utilising geothermal heat. Apart from being a renewable and environmentally friendly source of energy, the cost element clearly is significant. In the Nordic countries, electricity or fossil fuels are the main source of heating.
Attention: there was a mistake in the charts with regards to the assumptions … it is not 495 tons of oil equivalent, but rather 495 tons of hot water per household. I apologize for the mistake, but have updated the charts above to reflect that.

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