Climate Action

Iceland and Japan to lead the way on geothermal energy

Environment minister of Iceland, Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, announces partnership with Japan to boost geothermal potential and assist East African nations to unlock their renewable energy potential

  • 24 February 2014
  • William Brittlebank

Iceland and Japan are to share expertise and cooperate on renewable energy generation, according to Iceland’s environment minister, Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson.

Johannsson outlined how Japan can contribute to the partnership with its advanced technology; more than 90 per cent of the turbines used in Iceland are already supplied by Japanese companies.

According to an October report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Iceland and Japan are ranked seventh and eighth in terms of geothermal capacity, and the countries both have significant resources of geothermal energy.

The cooperation agreement is also likely to lead to assistance for developing nations such as Djibouti and Kenya in East Africa in order for them to increase the share of geothermal power in their energy mix.

Reykjavik Energy, the Icelandic geothermal power utility and Mitsubishi Heavy signed a memorandum of understanding in 2010, which has seen the two companies cooperate on the global development of geothermal energy, according to Mitsubishi Heavy.

According to recent studies, Iceland’s geothermal capacity grew to 951 megawatts last year from 65 megawatts in 2000, whilst Japan’s capacity has remained almost unchanged at 537 megawatts during the same period.

Japan eased rules in 2012 to allow geothermal developments in protected national parks as part of an effort to boost clean energy generation.

This was followed by the introduction of an incentive programme paying above-market rates for renewables. Solar has been the main beneficiary of the programme as it requires less time to build applications compared with geothermal and wind energy systems.

Geothermal currently supplies about 0.2 per cent of Japan’s electricity and has the potential to produce 23,000 megawatts of capacity in the country, according to a report by the Geothermal Energy Association in Washington D.C.