With India planning to accelerate renewable energy capacity fourfold to 175GW by 2022, European geothermal energy producers show interest in setting up generation plants in the country.

European companies, which generate electricity in geothermal power plants by using steam from reservoirs of hot water found a few kilometres or more below the earth’s surface, have claimed that the proposed plants can harness untapped heat energy in India.

Iceland, a major player in geothermal power sector, is interested in building two such power plants, including a 5MW plant in Jammu and Kashmir and a 10MW plant in Chhattisgarh, in the South Asian country. During his recent visit to New Delhi, Foreign Minister of the Nordic country Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson said: “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.” Sveinsson met the local media after discussing ways to increase bilateral trade and investments with the top Indian leadership.

The visiting minister recalled that Iceland had developed its renewable energy industry due to increasing cost of imported fossil fuels, like coal. “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,” added Sveinsson.

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 below 2 Degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. India committed to reducing carbon emissions by 35% in the next 14 years.

For his part, Manager of Islandsstofa (which promotes Iceland’s industry abroad) Thorleifur Thor Jonsson said that India could produce around 3GW of electricity every year from geothermal power with the help of his country. “India has very good potential for geothermal power generation. But it is best not to utilise 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,” he stressed.

As far as geothermal power is concerned, Kenya, Iceland, El Salvador and New Zealand have emerged as major global players in recent times. Although the current global geothermal energy capacity is just 12.6GW, Kenya (32% of power), Iceland (30%), El Salvador (25%) and New Zealand (17%) play a significant role in this particular sector. The BP Global data show that the US has the largest geothermal installed capacity at 3.5GW.

Meanwhile, the volume of trade between India and Iceland was USD 25 million in 2014-15. India has received USD 21 million in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from the Nordic country in the last 15 years.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]