Today, more than ever, governments, companies and consumers are focused on the use of renewable energy. Geothermal energy can often be developed for a life-cycle cost that is competitive with most other (non-renewable and renewable) sources, with fewer environmental impacts. However, the pace of geothermal commercial development is slower than conventional resources. This paper describes the history of global geothermal development, the technologies employed, the factors that are needed for a successful project, and the barriers that must be overcome to enable development.
The primary conclusions are that geothermal resources can most easily be developed by companies that have an understanding of the complexities associated with underground resource management, and the technology required to manage projects over long periods of time. Equally important is access to adequate capital and the ability to operate in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Political and regulatory support are also important, as is the ability of the developer to develop and nurture the long term relationships with host governments and local stakeholders that are needed for success.
The recent development of markets for carbon credits has allowed developers to benefit from geothermal energy's low emissions, which can significantly reduce the price of geothermal energy. However, political and regulatory uncertainty have diminished the likelihood that this value will be received.