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New Delhi: India’s plan to step up renewable energy capacity fourfold to 175 gigawatt (GW) by 2022 has attracted European geothermal energy producers to seek licences to set up generation plants that can harness untapped heat energy trapped under the earth.

Iceland, a major player in this sector, will seek licences to set up two power plants in India—a 5 megawatt (MW) plant at Pagu in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir and a 10 MW plant at Tattapani in Chhattisgarh, said the visiting Iceland foreign minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson on Tuesday.

Geothermal power plants use steam from reservoirs of hot water found a few kilometres or more below the earth’s surface.

“Icelandic companies have the expertise and experience in harnessing geothermal energy. They are keen to have partnerships with Indian companies—private and state-owned—and invest in the Indian market," he said.

Sveinsson said that he would discuss with Indian leaders ways to increase bilateral trade and investments between the countries. In 2014-15, the two nations had a bilateral trade of $25 million. Since 2000, India has received $21 million in foreign direct investment from Iceland.

According to Thorleifur Thor Jonsson, manager, trade delegations, Islandsstofa, which promotes Iceland’s industry abroad, India has the potential to produce about 3GW every year from geothermal power.

“India has very good potential for geothermal power generation. But it is best not to utilize the entire potential as many areas with geothermal activity are also tourist spots with geysers and hot springs. So, we have to take a balanced view of harnessing the energy generation potential and maintaining those attractions," said Jonsson.

India, at present, produces 37 GW of renewable energy, of which 25 GW is from wind and the rest from small hydroelectric, biomass, urban and industrial waste, and solar sources.

The government wants to scale up clean energy capacity in order to cut carbon emissions as per its international commitment.

Geothermal power, a continuous source of energy, is considered more predictable and desirable for power grid stability, than solar and wind, which are intermittent. Although the global geothermal energy capacity is only 12.6 GW, it plays a significant role in countries like Kenya (32% of power), Iceland (30%), El Salvador (25%), and New Zealand (17%), according to BP Global data. The US has the largest geothermal installed capacity at 3.5 GW.

Sveinsson said Iceland developed its renewable energy industry as importing fossil fuels like coal into the artic region was expensive. “Climate change is affecting Iceland. It is affecting you. It’s affecting everyone. India is a big country and is going for more clean energy, which is a very important step," said the visiting minister.

At the Paris climate conference in December, 195 countries adopted the first universal, legally binding, global climate agreement to limit the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

India has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 35% by 2030. The agreement will come into force in 2020.

According to Suzlon Group’s chairman and managing director Tulsi Tanti, government’s goal of providing 100% rural electrification by 1 May 2018 also provides “an incredible opportunity for the renewable energy sector and the rural economy".

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