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Iceland, Japan Can Cooperate to Boost Geothermal, Minister Says

Geothermal energy plant
Steam rises from the HS Orka geothermal energy plant near the Blue Lagoon thermal spa at Grindavik, Iceland. Iceland’s geothermal capacity grew to 951 megawatts last year from 65 megawatts in 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. Photographer: Arnaldur Halldorsson/Bloomberg

Iceland and Japan, two nations rich with underground sources of renewable energy, can tackle climate change together by promoting the use of geothermal power, Iceland’s environment minister said.

“We can cooperate both in Japan and Iceland,” Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson said in an interview in Tokyo. “It is the know-how we have for how to utilize geothermal in many ways” such as power generation, heating, and fish farming, he said.

By combining expertise, the two countries would be able to provide help to other nations such as Djibouti and Kenya in East Africa and other developing countries, he said.

Japan can contribute with its technology, the minister said, adding that more than 90 percent of the turbines used in Iceland are supplied by Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Toshiba Corp., and Fuji Electric Co.

Mitsubishi Heavy signed a memorandum of understanding in 2010 with Reykjavik Energy, an Icelandic geothermal power utility, to cooperate on the global development of geothermal energy, according to Mitsubishi Heavy’s website.

Iceland and Japan are ranked seventh and eighth in terms of installed geothermal capacity, according to an October report by the International Energy Agency.

Iceland’s geothermal capacity grew to 951 megawatts last year from 65 megawatts in 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. In the same period, Japan’s capacity has remained almost unchanged at 537 megawatts.

Geothermal Potential

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

The measure was followed by the introduction of an incentive program paying above-market rates for renewables. Solar has so far received the biggest boost from the incentive program as it requires less time to build compared with geothermal and wind.

Geothermal, which currently supplies about 0.2 percent of Japan’s electricity, has the potential to produce 23,000 megawatts of capacity for Japan, according to a 2012 report by the Geothermal Energy Association in Washington D.C. By comparison, Japan had about 14,000 megawatts of solar capacity at the end of 2013, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“I don’t know why we have not utilized geothermal energy much more, for example, in Japan,” the minister said. “It’s now very obvious that there are more positive things about that than negatives.”

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