CLEANTECH : Geothermal Gold; There,COs Money in Steam. New Zealand Has the Expertise ,Co but Are We Going to Let Chile Push Ahead of Us? Vicki Jayne Investigates
Byline: Vicki Jayne
Is New Zealand making the most of its long history and expertise in geothermal power generation?
Already ahead in the renewable energy game, we have a global reputation in geothermal and the opportunities to capitalise on that can be measured in billions. But itCOs already becoming a competitive space and grabbing our share may require a more concerted effort.
One local company already leveraging its geothermal development expertise offshore is Mighty River Power. It now has multimillion-dollar investments in projects in the US and Chile through its international partner US-based GeoA Global Energy Co of which Mighty River Power is the cornerstone and, currently, sole investor.
CEO Doug Heffernan says the formula itCOs pursuing is that of informed capital provider Co and he believes the rapidly growing offshore demand for such expertise will quickly outstrip Mighty River PowerCOs present investment capacity.
C[pounds sterling]The global opportunity is much much bigger than our existing business model could fund. ItCOs as simple as that. There is billions worth of opportunity. We have currently committed US$250 million (through GGE) but could see that fund needing more capital quite quickly in order to grow with the opportunities that come to it.C[yen]
The advantage of geothermal is that it offers reliable base-load energy, and New Zealand is rare in having such a long history of large-scale production, says Heffernan.
C[pounds sterling]ItCOs a particular aspect of cleantech in which New Zealand is one of very few countries that has competence because weCOve been in it for so long. Our reputation is very high globally but could be improved. Certainly the recent flurry of activity in geothermal Co a lot of it stuff MRP is doing Co has raised prominence in a global sense and that is an opportunity to leverage off.C[yen]
ItCOs not like we havenCOt been down this track before. New ZealandCOs history for exporting geothermal expertise dates back several decades, notes James Muir, clean energy finance manager for Sinclair Knight Merz Co an engineering firm with well-established expertise in the geothermal space.
C[pounds sterling]New Zealand was helping the Philippines set up their geothermal industry 30 years ago and we do very similar work around the world now Co so globally we are definitely on a par with the Icelandics and the US West Coast.C[yen]
There are a limited number of countries that have both geothermal resource and existing expertise. Of those, the US base is a bit scattered, while the Philippines and Indonesia are mainly focused on their own economies, suggests Heffernan. Iceland has, however, already spotted the economic opportunity and is putting a concerted effort into establishing itself as an international centre of geothermal excellence.
It has, suggests Heffernan, been a C[pounds sterling]bit more globalC[yen] in the way itCOs approached the market than New Zealand has to date. …